Happy National Children’s Dental Health Month! It is so important for children to develop good oral health habits at an early age. Starting strong dental health habits early will give kids a fantastic foundation for good oral health and a lifetime of healthy smiles. Let’s look at the essential tips for keeping our kids’ smiles happy and healthy for years to come!
Don’t wait until your child’s teeth start coming in or they can hold a toothbrush - good oral hygiene and habits start from a much earlier age than you might think!
1 is the magic number: Bring your child in for their 1st dentist visit by age 1 or their 1st tooth - whichever comes first!
Clean your baby’s gums daily, starting from about 3 months of age. Use a damp, soft washcloth or piece of gauze wrapped around a finger to gently wipe the gums after each feeding.
Start brushing with the first tooth. Use an infant toothbrush, water, and a tiny smear of fluoride-free toothpaste - about the size of a grain of rice. (Switch to fluoridated toothpaste at around age 3.)
Start flossing once your child’s teeth touch. Help your child until they can do it on their own - usually by around age 7.
Routines Are Important
Routines are incredibly important for children. They provide stability, security, and - in the case of dental health - a strong foundation for good oral hygiene and health that will benefit children for their entire lives. Brush twice a day, every single day for two minutes each, and floss once a day. Don’t let your child skip their daily routine of cleaning their mouth, even if they’re tired or if there is a special occasion!
Make It Fun
Kids learn best when they’re having fun, so help them associate cleaning their teeth with a fun time. Some tried and true ideas include:
Play two minutes of their favorite song while brushing and dancing together
Use storytime to encourage good oral hygiene. There are many children’s books and videos with stories about brushing, or make up your own!
Use a daily tooth brushing chart with stickers as rewards to mark off each accomplished teeth cleaning
Let them choose their own fun toothbrush and toothpaste
Instead of sugar-laden fruit juice, sports drinks, sodas, fruit snacks, candy and cookies, give your child mouth healthy snacks like carrot sticks, apple slices, and calcium-rich cheeses and low-sugar yogurt. Water will keep your kid hydrated far better than sodas and juices, and will also help rinse away sugar and food particles that can lead to cavities. Most municipal water sources also contain fluoride, which extensive research has shown is a very effective and safe way to strengthen teeth and help prevent tooth decay (aka cavities).
Learn By Example
Children learn first from their parents’ and caregivers’ example, so let them see that you are also cleaning your teeth regularly and snacking healthily. Better yet, brush your teeth with them, have them help you prepare healthy snacks, and share with them the importance of good oral health habits. They will learn by example while also building great memories with you!
Set your child up with great dental health habits and a great, healthy smile. There’s no better time to start than now, during National Children’s Dental Health Month!
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