An estimated 1 in 4 5-year-old’s suffer from tooth decay and more than 179,000 children between ages of 0 to 9 undergo tooth extractions in the UK, according to data released by the Royal College of Surgeons Faculty of Dental Surgeons. This information clearly shows that dental health issues among children are alarming, and these issues are almost completely avoidable.
In order to prevent children from having to deal with dental health problems, parents need to become proactive. The earlier parents establish a proper oral health routine with their children, the less likely they will have to endure issues down the road.
Here are 10 tips to help you establish good oral health in your children so that they can have a healthy, beautiful smile that will last them long into adulthood.
- The Earlier, The Better. Even before your little one’s first tooth erupts, you should start practicing oral hygiene. Use a clean, soft, wet washcloth or wet gauze and rub it over’s your baby’s gums. Doing so will remove any milk or formula that remains on his gums, giving him a healthy foundation for his new teeth when they do arrive. Plus, your little one will become used to the idea, which will make it easier to transition into actual tooth brushing when his teeth come in.
- Never Put Your Child to Bed with a Drink. If your child is soothed by a bottle or a sippy cup and it helps her fall asleep, it can be tempting to put her down with one. However, doing so can wreck havoc on her teeth. Milk, formula and juice can lead to tooth decay if they are allowed to sit on the teeth for prolonged periods of time. If your child refuses to sleep without a bottle or a sippy cup, it should only be filled with water.
- Make Tooth Brushing Fun! Many children view brushing their teeth as a tedious and taxing chore, which can lead to avoidance and meltdowns whenever it’s time to brush their teeth. You can avoid the meltdowns by making tooth brushing fun! There are so many cool toothbrushes for children! They come in bright colors, with fun designs and there are even some that light up! In addition to using a cool, kid-approved toothbrush, you could interject some silliness into the whole tooth brushing routine. Make up a funny song, or ask him to open his mouth like an alligator, for example. Try anything that gets your child excited to brush his teeth!
- Set a Good Example. Children tend to mimic what they see their parents doing. Lead the way to proper oral hygiene by brushing and flossing your teeth in front of your little ones. When they see you taking care of your teeth, they’ll be more likely to follow in your footsteps. Show them how to properly brush their teeth; brush every part of your mouth, including your tongue. Teach them how to move the bristles across their teeth in a circular formation and instruct them to never apply too much pressure. Also, make sure to tell them that they should never chew on the bristles of a tooth brush, as doing so will damage the bristles.
- Visit the Dentist! As soon as your child’s first tooth erupts, make an appointment with a pediatric dentist. The earlier you take your child to the dentist, the more accustomed she will become to it, which will make regular dental visits less stressful for you and for her. Make going to the dentist a fun experience. Ideally, children should go to the dentist once every 6 months. During appointments, a dentist will examine your child’s mouth to check for any signs of decay and ensure that the teeth are developing properly. A hygienist will do a cleaning and will teach your child important techniques. Once your child reaches the age of three, don’t forget to ask about fluoride treatments.
- Engage Your Child in Activities that Encourage Oral Health. You can incorporate oral hygiene activities into your child’s daily life in a multitude of ways, outside of regular brushings and dental exams. Read books about dental health with your child. Encourage your child to play “dentist” and examine the “teeth” of her toys. Provide activities that allow her to pretend she’s brushing and flossing; use a toothbrush to clean blocks, or flip egg cartons upside down and place crumbs between the crates and allow your child to floss them out, for example.
- Offer Healthy Foods. The foods your child eats will have a big impact on his teeth. Offer healthy foods, including plenty of veggies and dairy items. Fruits are good, too; however, offer water while eating because the natural sugars in fruit could possibly damage the teeth if they sit on them for too long.
- Cut Out Sugar and Gummy Foods. Cut back on foods and drinks that are high in sugar content, including candy, ice cream and fruit juices. Gummy foods, such as fruit snacks, should also be limited. Not only are they high in sugar, but they stick to the teeth, which will increase the risk of decay.
- Hand Over Control. Children like to be in control. Giving them control of their dental health will encourage them to take ownership – and will reduce frustration on both of your parts. Let your little one pick out his toothbrush and toothpaste; allow him to wet the brush and assist him with putting toothpaste on the brush; let him rinse his toothbrush off. Anything that will allow your child to have a sense of control will lead to positive results.
- Set A Timer. Children should brush their teeth at least twice a day for two minutes each time. Set a timer to make sure that your child is getting in a thorough brushing and make sure that she is covering all surfaces.
With these tips, you can lead your child on the path to good dental hygiene that will last a lifetime.