HKQ Kids

Keeping Little Teeth Clean

It can’t be overstated: healthy teeth make for a healthy child. It’s important to teach your kids about oral hygiene as soon as possible and get them into a routine of dental care that they’ll follow well into adulthood.

Tooth decay is one of the more prominent oral health problems experienced by younger children, as their teeth are harder to thoroughly brush; oftentimes, children develop cavities before they’re able to brush their teeth on their own. There’s a misconception that cavities in baby teeth aren’t actually an issue since they’ll eventually be replaced by permanent adult teeth. However, dental issues as a child can have ramifications later on in life. Plus, your child will be more likely to avoid cavities as an adult if he or she is taught early on to take care of their teeth.

You can start brushing your child’s teeth with water as soon as they have teeth to brush; just make sure to use a small, soft toothbrush. While fluoride is extremely important in strengthening tooth enamel and preventing cavities, it can be harmful if swallowed. You can start out by brushing with water twice a day (with a very small amount of non-fluoride toothpaste) and switch over to a fluoride toothpaste once your child is old enough to rinse and spit while brushing.

Typically, kids will need supervision in brushing their teeth until around 7 years old. Around this age is an especially important time when it comes to encouraging long-term oral hygiene. In order to make brushing a part of their everyday routine, it can help to try and make the process more fun and rewarding. For example, let your child pick out his or her own toothbrush, whether it’s their favorite color or decorated with pictures of their favorite cartoon character. You’ll want to encourage your kids to brush their teeth for about two minutes, so it can help to play a song or video to keep them engaged and on time.

Once your child becomes older and more independent, it can be difficult to keep them responsible and consistent with their toothbrushing. If getting your kids to brush twice a day starts to feel like pulling teeth, (which is what we’re trying to avoid!) consider putting a reward system into place. If teeth are brushed twice a day everyday for two weeks or a month, consider giving your child a small reward for their persistence. At the same time, it’s important that your children aren’t solely motivated by prizes; teach them that brushing their teeth can help avoid a lot of unpleasantness and trips to the dentist.

            Speaking of which, it’s recommended that a child has their first visit to a pediatric dentist by age 1; this is to ensure that there are no problems with the development of your child’s teeth. Typically, a pediatrician will check your child’s teeth and gums during a well-child visit and recommend either a general or pediatric dentist to suit your child’s needs. Of course, be sure to contact a dentist if your child is experiencing any tooth pain, as he or she may be dealing with an infection.

In addition, a huge part of dental hygiene involves the foods and drinks your child consumes. Of course, it’s best to avoid foods and drinks that are loaded with sugar, as being exposed to sugar will increase the risk of a tooth developing cavities. It’s your choice to determine how often your child’s diet will include sugary products, but regardless, it’s best to remember to brush after eating especially sticky and sugary foods.

            A few more points to consider:

  1. Thumb-sucking or using a pacifier is normal behavior for young children, but past the age of 4, this can cause issues with teeth alignment, especially when adult teeth start to come in around age 6.
  2. Most adults don’t floss every day, so it can be particularly difficult to get your kids to do so. However, making it a part of the routine early on in life can ensure consistency as an adult. Flossing once a day can help ensure strong and healthy teeth.
  3. Depending on who you ask, there are different opinions on which motions should be used when brushing teeth, i.e. up and down, in small circles, etc. Above all, though, it’s mainly important that each tooth is thoroughly cleaned, including ones that are more out of sight. Make sure your kids understand the importance of cleaning even the teeth that aren’t in view when they’re smiling.

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