From their smile, it’s hard to imagine your children’s’ teeth as anything other than strong and gleaming. Before years of drinking coffee, tea and soda, your kids’ teeth might appear white, but that doesn’t mean they’re clean or strong. Proper dental care and good dental hygiene help your children’s’ teeth appear as strong and bright to their pediatric dentist, as they do you.
Healthy Smiles Start Before the Teeth Arrive
You can prepare your children for a childhood of healthy teeth by establishing good dental hygiene well before the first tooth even arrives. Massage your baby’s gums after each meal with a gauze pad or a clean washcloth.
While this may sound extreme, it actually serves two very important functions. First, removing the bacteria and food residue from your baby’s gums creates a healthy environment for the growth of the first tooth. Second, cleaning their gums gets them used to an adult touching the inside their mouth- something that makes teeth brushing and dentist visits infinitely easier.
Still not convinced? Imagine the flailing, squealing and sometimes sobbing response of your 10 month old when you wipe his face. Unless they’re used to having their “gums brushed” before the first tooth arrives, the above reaction is only a fraction of the resistance you’ll experience when trying to brush their teeth.
A soft-bristle toothbrush is best for cleaning your children’s’ teeth. Focus on the area closest to the gum line since this is where plaque and tater accumulate. Massage the brush with constant circular motions, starting in the very back of your child’s mouth and working you way forward.
Some parents find it easier to use a child-size electric toothbrush. Toddlers are notoriously ineffective teeth brushers, and 5 year-olds don’t fair much better. For maximum dental care, expect to brush your children’s’ teeth for them until they’re at least 7 years old.
Just like adults, your kids’ teeth require brushing at least twice a day. Mornings are hardest. Ideally, your kids’ should brush their teeth after eating. Something you can ensure by keeping the toothbrushes and toothpaste in the bathroom closest to the kitchen. But, especially with toddlers, herding them back into the bathroom after breakfast isn’t a realistic plan.
Instead, bundle all the bathroom-related activities together by brushing your children’s’ teeth immediately after they use the toilet, and before they go downstairs. This at least removes the bacteria and plaque that build up overnight. If you have extra time to brush again after breakfast, great! If not, you’ll know that they’re starting the day with a clean smile.
Night time brushing should be as much apart of your kids’ routine as changing into their pajamas and reading stories. Brush your children’sÂ teeth after they take a bath or use the toilet, and before they get into bed.
The only liquid in their bottle should be water. Period. Putting your child to bed with a bottle of milk or juice forces their teeth to soak in sugars all night long. When traveling, keep a few disposable finger toothbrushes in your bag and brush their teeth before they fall asleep in the car or on an airplane.
Fluoride acts like a shield for young teeth by keeping them strong against bacteria, and can even reverse early-stage cavities. Many communities have natural fluoride in the drinking water, other add it at the water treatment facility. Visit your municipal water works website to determine whether your town’s water has fluoride.
If your town doesn’t have fluoride in the drinking water, or if your child drinks only bottled or filtered water, speak with your pediatricÂ dentist about fluoride drops or tablets.
Plaque and tater cause tooth decay, but food and diet are responsible for the initial buildup of both these items. Starchy and sugary foods feed tartar, causing it to coat the teeth. Tartar is that textured film you feel on your own teeth several hours after eating a large, carbohydrate-heavy meal. To prevent cavities, brushing your teeth is necessary, but so is a proper diet.
The obvious offenders are candy and sweets, but kids who walk around sucking on a bottle or sippy cup of juice aren’t much better off. The absolute worst foods for your children’s teeth are anything sticky, such as taffe, caramel or gummy snacks.
These stick to your children’s’ teeth, and set your kids up for lots of nasty cavities. The point is, every time your child eats something sweet, their teeth get a sugar bath of tartar-growing material. Limit your child’s starchy snacks between meals and opt for string cheese or veggies and dip over gummy fruit snacks or animal crackers.
Regular Visits to the Dentist
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, children who visit the Dentist before their first birthday experience less tooth decay and 40% less fewer dental-related costs than their peers who don’t. Two visits a year to your pediatric dentist familiarizes your child with the teeth cleaning process and allows the dentist to catch any issues pertaining to your child’s bite or possible cavities.