When you have a family, days pass by in a blur of commuting and commitments. It’s easy to let some things slip by. For many families, this includes dental care. But a healthy smile isn’t just nice to look at. It can improve your overall lifestyle, and is good for your actual longevity. Teaching your children to take care of their teeth at a young age will improve the likelihood that they will continue good habits into adulthood. Here is how you can teach them good oral care habits.
1. Start teaching them to brush regularly at a young age. The younger the child is, the more likely they are to continue the habit regularly. This can be started as early as 6 months old. With an infant, use a warm washcloth to lightly brush at the teeth or gums. If you do this every day, by age 2 the child will see it as a regular habit (like eating dinner or taking a nap). Continue the habit, and by age 3 or 4 the child will be capable of doing it on their own. Most are even enthusiastic about doing it every day. Once you have the momentum going, keep it going.
2. Eat right and avoid certain foods. This not only helps the teeth, but overall physical and mental health. When life gets busy, it can be hard to take the time to eat healthy foods in favor of quick and easy meals, but many of those meals wear on the enamel and strength of the teeth and gums. Dentists have researched the common problems in children’s cavities, gum disease, and tooth decay.
Here are the best and worst foods you can feed your kids if you are concerned about good oral health:
- high fiber, crunchy fruits and vegetables
- teas & cocoa
- mineral rich foods (meat, leafy greens, whole grains)
- sodas & sports drinks
- sticky or long-lasting sweets (candy apples, taffy, caramel)
- dried fruits
- starchy foods (white bread, french fries, potato chips)
3. Visit the dentist regularly. Everyone knows that it’s important to make regular visits to the dentist, but many Americans don’t find the time. Teach children the importance of doing this at a young age and they are more likely to continue as adults. Dentists say that children can make their first visit as early as 1-year-old, but no later then 4. After age 4, children run a higher risk of cavities. This can be not only costly, but traumatic for younger children. Even if your child hasn’t lost their baby teeth, there is still a risk of long-term effects. Dentists also know when there is a problem, and the child may need a cosmetic dentist to help with teeth straightening or orthodonture.
4. Get enough fluoride. Fluoride strengthens the enamel on teeth, helping prevent decay. Many cities fluoridate their water supply, but not all and it isn’t enough. Make sure that whatever toothpaste you and your children use that it has fluoride in it. If necessary, find out about fluoride supplements from your dentist. These are not often necessary, but if your city or town doesn’t fluoridate the water it may be important.
5. Teach your children how to floss. Plaque and bits of food can get stuck between the teeth and the gums, so learning to floss is important to help prevent future problems. Dentists recommend that parents floss their children’s teeth as early as 2 1/2. If they have teeth touching, the teeth need flossed. Children cannot properly floss their teeth on their own until roughly age 9, so it is important for the parent to do it. It is often easiest to do it at bedtime, while the child is laying down. It makes it easier for the parent to reach in, and for the child to be comfortable.
Teaching good habits increases the chance of continued oral health, which can prevent health problems like gum and heart disease.