Healthy oral hygiene habits are important, and it’s up to us to help kids take great care of the teeth that will last them a lifetime. It’s best to start with proper dental care and training as early as possible to ensure that our children’s teeth are strong and cavity-free into adulthood.
Here are some great tips to help your family avoid tooth decay, infection and cavities:
1. Proper Prenatal Nutrition—
The time to start taking good care of your child’s teeth may be earlier than you think. Doctors recommend that during pregnancy, moms-to-be make certain to eat extra foods that contain calcium, such as leafy greens and dairy products.
Your unborn baby’s teeth are forming between the 3rd and 6th month of pregnancy, so adequate calcium intake is especially important during these months. Your doctor can prescribe prenatal vitamins with extra calcium if you are unable to find them in stores.
2. Avoid Baby Bottle Cavities—
Cavities can form on the teeth of babies who are given bottles of milk or juice before naps and bedtime. (Juice is not recommended by pediatricians because of its high sugar content, so if possible, avoid juice completely.)
Try to give babies bottles before naps or bedtime, rather than allowing them to fall asleep with a bottle. Many parents do this successfully by replacing the bottle with a pacifier.
If your baby will only fall asleep while drinking from a bottle, make sure it contains only water to avoid tooth decay.
3. Early Dental Wellness Exams—
Most experts recommend that children have their first dental wellness exam before the age of 1. This gets children in the habit of going to the dentist early, and creates a fun atmosphere that will give them happy associations.
Making the twice-yearly dental cleaning a regular occurrence can take any “fear of the unknown” out of the experience for them, and finding a dentist who caters to kids by using positive reinforcement (such as rewards like balloons and little toys) is highly recommended.
4. Limit Sugar Intake—
Sugar is in many of the foods and beverages our children eat and drink each day. Sugar is known for causing tooth decay and cavities, so try to limit your children’s sugar intake as much as possible. Some of the worst cavity-causing culprits are soft drinks and fruit juices, and of course, candy. The stickier the candy, the more it clings to the surfaces of teeth, so be sure to brush teeth after chewy fruit snacks and gummy candies.
5. Be a Great Coach—
Kids need to be taught to brush their teeth well, just like they need to be taught to do everything else. As soon as your child has teeth, they should be brushing twice a day, in the morning upon waking and before bed. At first, they will need you to brush their teeth to show them how to cover all surfaces.
An electric toothbrush is a wonderful aid in this endeavor, and it spins, making every movement more thorough and removing more plaque. An electric toothbrush can also make brushing more fun for your child and help get them used to the buzzing cleaning tools used by the dentist during cleanings.
Supervise dental brushing to make sure your child is brushing for the proper length of time, and reaching all surfaces. Use a timer, if necessary, set to at least 2 minutes. Your kids will thank you for your great dental hygiene coaching someday when they realize you spared them the unpleasantness of tooth decay.
With regular dental exams, you can use the teeth care tips above to create happy, positive associations for your kids and excellent oral hygiene habits. Teaching them how to take great care of their teeth is a wonderful gift you can give your children that will last a lifetime.