Did you know that an estimated 42% of young children have cavities in their primary (baby) teeth? While cavities aren’t uncommon and those baby teeth will soon be replaced, it’s still important to take care of your child’s teeth.
Visiting the dentist is the first step in good dental care, but what else can you do between dental visits? Read on to learn how to protect your child’s tooth health.
Explain Good Dental Care and Health
As long as your child is at least toddler age, you should be able to explain the importance of good dental health to them. They likely won’t understand complex topics, but a simple explanation is often enough to encourage them to make good choices.
Many parents make the mistake of telling their children to do something “just because.” This can be an ineffective technique. Children are naturally curious, and they are more likely to do something if you explain why they have to do it.
If you’re struggling to explain good dental health and habits in a child-friendly way, we recommend gathering books and shows that teach children about dental health. Children have an easier time understanding when animated characters are involved!
Bonus: these books and shows are also great for alleviating and preventing childhood dental anxiety!
Model Good Habits for Your Child
Children mimic their parents when they’re young. Because of this, it’s a good idea to model important oral health habits between dental visits.
Even if you wouldn’t normally brush your teeth until later, brush your teeth with your child before bedtime. Make sure that you brush for a full two minutes to set a good example.
After you brush, floss and use mouthwash. Show your child the right way to do these things.
You might have to exaggerate your movements for young children so they can understand what you’re doing. Make brushing look like something that you want to do instead of something that you have to do.
You should also model good oral health behavior by going to the dentist yourself. Too many adults skip their own dental visits, and this sets a bad example for your child.
Young Children: Brush and Floss for Them
Many parents don’t anticipate having to brush their children’s teeth. It’s something that no one tells you during your pregnancy parenting classes, but it’s crucial!
Children tend to grow their first tooth before or around their first birthday, and they’re far too young to brush on their own. You’ll have to brush for your child and assist them with brushing well into the toddler years.
If you’re not sure how to care for an infant’s teeth and gums, talk to their pediatric dentist for advice.
Use the Right Tools
Don’t skip right to adult toothbrushes and toothpaste for your child. While these things won’t be harmful per se, they may be less comfortable and enjoyable for your child.
Child toothbrushes are smaller and often more “fun” looking. They tend to have fun designs or even characters on them to make them more appealing. The bristles are also softer which will make them better for children’s sensitive gums.
Some toothbrushes even play songs to tell children how long they need to brush!
Children’s toothpaste contains plenty of fluoride, making it great for their new teeth. It also often comes in fun flavors, like bubblegum.
Figure Out How to Make Brushing Fun
Let’s face it: brushing your teeth is a chore. While it only takes two minutes, those two minutes can be boring. Two minutes also feels like a much longer length of time for children.
You have to find a way to make it fun.
As we mentioned before, some children’s toothbrushes play songs so children know when to stop brushing. If you don’t have a toothbrush that plays a song, you can simply play two minutes of your child’s favorite song instead.
You can also use an app. There are plenty of tooth brushing apps available that instruct your child on how to brush their teeth. They feature fun characters like Pikachu, and they turn brushing teeth into a game.
Use a Reward System
If your child is resistant to regular brushing, set up a reward system for it. Every time your child brushes their teeth on time, add one tally or sticker to a chart. If they do it without being asked, add a second one.
When your child gets a certain amount of tallies or stickers (we recommend two weeks’ worth, but this is up to you), they get a small reward. You can start spacing the rewards out further when your child gets more consistent with brushing.
Children are reward-motivated, so take advantage of it.
Avoid Excess Sugar
Everyone knows that sugar isn’t great for your teeth. Unfortunately, children love sweet treats. While you don’t have to deprive your child, you should limit their sugar intake as much as possible.
When your child eats sugar, encourage them to brush soon after. This way, bacteria won’t have time to form plaque on their teeth.
Instead of plain juice, mix juice with water. This will cut the sugar dramatically and most children won’t notice the difference.
Encourage Your Child to Tell You About Dental Problems
Even with the best dental care, oral health problems can pop up. Talk to your child about how to notice dental health problems and encourage them to come to you if they’re experiencing pain or sensitivity.
It’s difficult to notice dental problems when you’re not the one experiencing them. Look for signs like your child refusing to eat, holding the side of their face, or wincing when they have cold food or drinks.
This could just be a sign that a new tooth is coming in, but a quick dentist visit to make sure everything is okay won’t hurt.
Protect Your Child’s Teeth Between Dental Visits
If you want to keep your child’s teeth strong and healthy between dental visits, try some of these tips. Remember: even if your child only has their baby teeth, they still need to practice good oral hygiene. You’re responsible for teaching them how to clean their pearly whites!
Are you looking for a new dentist for your child? Contact us to set up an appointment today!