As a parent, you want the best for your children. The best schools, the best friends, the best doctors—the list goes on and on. One of the most important things you can do to help your kids enjoy healthy lives is to establish good patterns for their oral health.
Poor dental health and tooth decay can lead to further health complications that may stay with a child for the rest of their life. Yet, many families still don’t emphasize the need to take good care of teeth. In fact, over 40% of kids have experienced tooth decay and cavities by the time they reach kindergarten.
Here are a few ways you as a parent can help prevent tooth decay in your children’s teeth and improve their dental health.
Start Them Early!
From infancy to adolescence and beyond, never stop looking for those teaching moments where you can share why dental health matters. Reinforce brushing habits as early as you can by giving your children their own soft-bristled toothbrush, brushing alongside them, and making it a part of your daily routine.
For babies, give them a small, very soft toothbrush that they can begin putting in their mouth when you brush. Don’t use toothpaste, and be sure to keep them upright so they don’t begin gagging. You’ll also want to wipe down their teeth after each feeding to avoid plaque buildup before they can properly use a toothbrush.
Make Brushing Fun
You be the example and show kids that brushing their teeth can be fun! Brush with them in front of a mirror so that they can try to mimic your movements. Be sure to smile while you brush, and maybe turn brushing into a game, to indicate to your child that brushing teeth doesn’t have to be boring.
If children have a poor first experience brushing their teeth, they will be less likely to continue good brushing and oral health habits later on in life. So speak positively about it, don’t make brushing a punishment, and avoid scolding kids if they haven’t got the right techniques down yet. Work together to make brushing enjoyable.
Give a Little Assistance
Toddlers will especially need your help to brush effectively. Again, make sure that it’s a good experience, not something you’re forcing on them. Have children hold your hand and look in the mirror as you guide their toothbrush back and forth gently, but firmly. You may need to help children as old as 6 or even 8 years old before they have mastered basic brushing techniques.
Less Sugar, More Water
One of the dangers to kids’ teeth is an excess of juice or sugary drinks. These drinks break down enamel quickly, especially if children are not brushing at least twice a day. Instead, have kids drink more water! Choose tap water with fluoride when possible as a substitute to these less healthy drinks that may cause more cavities. Drinking a glass of water after a meal especially can help stimulate saliva glands and wash away bacteria and plaque from that meal.
Try avoiding sticky candy and food as well that may get stuck in between teeth allowing for more plaque buildup. Reward kids with their favorite fruit instead of candy, and buy fresh instead of dry fruit that tends to be stickier. Good nutrition is just one more way you can improve their dental health, but also overall health.
Bottles Before Bed
Many kids like going to bed with a bottle of milk or a drink in their favorite sippy cup. But children’s teeth shouldn’t be exposed to the sugars in formula or breast milk, juice, and other drinks for the entire night. If they are, they may experience baby bottle tooth decay. Give them a drink before bedtime, but clean their teeth before hopping into bed and be sure to keep the bottles out of the bunks or cribs.
Visit the Dentist
Like brushing needs to be a good experience for children to continue the habit, so should a trip to the dentist be a good experience, especially when it’s a child’s first visit. We recommend taking your baby to the dentist before their first birthday when their first tooth appears. After that, visit your family dentist every six months for dental cleanings and exams. Again, if you can be the example of regularly visiting the dentist, then your kids will get into the habit as well.
If children are anxious about dental appointments, be sure to speak positively about your own experiences at the dentist, and communicate openly about what they can expect. Find a family-friendly dentist who will happily answer your child’s questions and alleviate their concerns.
For families with children in Wasilla or Palmer, AK, visit Meridian Dental, conveniently located by several schools in Wasilla! Our family dentists will help your children feel comfortable and at ease from the moment they walk inside our dental office. We offer general and advanced dental services for the entire family! Request your appointment with our compassionate Wasilla dentists today.