Celebrate National Dental Health Month
It’s National Children’s Dental Health month, which is a great time to talk about good dental hygiene for our kids. Taking care of teeth right from the start can help contribute to better health outcomes for life.
We talked about taking care of teeth a few years ago and shared these tips:
- Everyone should have their own toothbrush. Shared toothbrushes spread germs. –
- You should use only Soft or Medium toothbrushes. Hard bristle brushes can injure your gums.
- It’s helpful to change up the motions used while brushing so that spaces aren’t missed. Try up and down some days, circular or back and forth other days.
- Don’t forget to brush your tongue too.
- Toothbrushes should only ever be stored in an upright position in the open air. Don’t lock them up in a toothbrush holder – they need to dry out between uses.
- Because toothbrushes are in the open air in your bathroom, close the toilet before flushing to keep bacteria from reaching the toothbrush.
- Be sure to toss your brush every few months, or sooner if the bristles start to bend and fray. A new toothbrush will help you do a better job keeping those teeth clean.
Caring for children’s teeth
Caring for children’s teeth begins with their very first tooth. No need for a toothbrush, but regularly clean your baby’s gums with a soft cloth when that first tooth appears. Once your baby has two teeth, begin using a soft children’s toothbrush and non-fluoride toothpaste to brush their teeth twice a day.
Until your child is regularly spitting out the foam that is created during tooth brushing continue to use a non-fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay but swallowing it isn’t recommended. According to one dentist, “When your children are at least three years old, you can start using pea-sized amounts of fluoridated toothpaste to brush their teeth. If you’re unsure about the amount, your dentist can show you how much to safely use.”
It’s a good idea to supervise brushing until your child is around eight years old, to make sure they are brushing properly and reaching all sides of each tooth. Include flossing in your tooth care routine to help prevent decay caused by food that gets lodged between the teeth.
Schedule the first dentist visit when that first tooth appears or around their first birthday. Regular visits to the dentist will help catch issues early and even prevent certain types of problems.
Another way to care for your children’s teeth includes limiting sugary foods and drinks. Babies who fall asleep with a bottle in their mouth are at a higher risk of tooth decay, as the sugars in the milk or juice pool in their mouth and on their teeth.
Dental Health at all ages
Here’s how to help establish good habits for dental health at any age.
As soon as your baby’s first tooth erupts, it’s time to schedule a visit to the dentist. Baby teeth help babies chew properly. As they learn to talk, baby teeth help them speak clearly. And those baby teeth form a path for the permanent teeth that are waiting behind them. Use a soft bristle brush with a small head at bedtime to brush those new baby teeth each day. No need to use toothpaste – just the wet brush is sufficient.
Toddlers still need parents to brush their teeth for them, making sure all those emerging teeth are cleaned daily. You can introduce ‘training toothpaste’ at this time, but avoid toothpaste with fluoride until your child is old enough to reliably not swallow during brushing. Be sure to support your “help me do it myself” two-year-old but allowing them to also brush their teeth, either before or after you have made sure every tooth gets brushed. Continue with regular dentist visits.
Sippy cups filled with fruit juice or milk are a real threat to healthy teeth. Use a sippy cup only as a transition tool from bottle to cup, moving to a regular cup sooner rather than later. Keep sugary drinks from pooling on the teeth by filling sippy cups only with water unless they are at the table for a meal.
Parents should continue to supervise tooth brushing for their young child, making sure that teeth are thoroughly brushed twice a day. Now is the time to introduce flossing – ideally daily.
By now tooth brushing should be a twice-daily habit, part of their morning and evening routine. As your child becomes increasingly independent in self-care, you can take a step back from direct supervision. You’ll still want to be making those appointments for regular cleaning and exam with a dentist.
Good dental health right from the start can contribute to a lifetime of better health. Start early, and brush often! And don’t forget those regular visits to the dentist.