If you’re concerned about your little one’s dental health, you’re not alone! Many parents have questions about their children’s oral hygiene routine, from when to start brushing to discovering if braces will be necessary.
Our children look to us to teach them how to take care of themselves. With a few tips from our dental health team, parents like you can become excellent role models in preparing young smiles for a lifetime of stronger, healthier and more confident smiles.
Excellent oral health begins during infancy. That’s right! Your baby will benefit from your gentle touch and extra attention to his or her oral health during this time of life. When that first tooth starts to erupt through the gums (around 5 1⁄2-6 mo), plaque and biofilm start to collect and oral hygiene can begin. Wipe off plaque with a clean washcloth nightly or an under 2 yr old soft bristle toothbrush.
Taking Your Toddler To The Dentist
Your toddler’s first visit to the dentist should be at their first birthday. There are usually 2-4 front teeth visible around this time. Establishing a dental home at this age can be a key preventive step to positive dental health. The dentist will likely do a knee to knee exam to observe your toddler’s teeth and gums, apply a fluoride varnish if appropriate and review with you, key diet and hygiene points.
Early childhood tooth decay has become a serious problem and it is preventable. The dentist can determine your child’s decay risk and can recommend whether he or she should return in 6-12 months. It is important to develop positive, easy-going experiences. These first visits allow you the parent to learn about your young child’s teeth how to keep them healthy.
Be A (Super)Model of Behavior
The best way to teach your kiddos how to brush their teeth is…to show them how you brush your own! By demonstrating your morning and evening routines, they’ll have that habit ingrained as part of their self care. From placing the correct amount of toothpaste onto the toothbrush to explaining the areas to brush (inside, outside, top and bottom), you will have rapt students hanging on to your every bristle!
Brush ‘em Brush ‘em Brush ‘em
The proper technique, of course, is: holding the brush at a 45 degree angle to your gums and using small circular motions across all surfaces of the teeth and tongue. Remember to show them how to rinse and spit out the toothpaste–never swallow!
For children over 2 years, a tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste, no bigger than a grain of rice, is safe to use. Once your child reaches 6 years old, children should brush with no more than a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.
Remember that you need to be the primary brusher of their teeth. It’s ok to let them brush first but they will not have the manual dexterity to brush accurately until age 8. Teeth brushing is a big social stepping stone so be positive and encouraging.
Have good brushing and flossing habits for yourself. Tooth decay is driven by plaque and bacteria and decay causing bacteria can and does spread from parent to child. Untreated tooth decay in either parent’s mouth increases the risk of decay in your child.
Give Your Kiddo Choices!
By allowing your child to choose his or own toothbrush, you are empowering them in their self care journey. Having choices is a luxury and a responsibility that will encourage your little one to feel committed and powerful in brushing his or her teeth. It’s fun to see the choices they make–will they pick the toothbrush you think they will? They might surprise you and give you more insight into their budding personalities!
Change, Change, Change That Brush
Remember that it’s best to change your toothbrush every three months to ensure that harmful bacteria does not accumulate and that the bristles retain their scrubbing superpowers. Fluoride toothpaste is safe, but mint just might be a tad too “adult” for their tiny tastebuds. You’ll notice that kid-friendly toothpastes are generally fruit flavored for a more gentle experience on those tiny tastebuds!
Same, Same, Same
One thing to never change? Your routine! Keep it consistent: the same time, every day, in the same place. Maybe it’s right after dinner. Maybe it’s right before bed and a story. Just stick to it and soon your little one will be piping up and reminding YOU!
Raising Healthy Children
Raising children is a bright, messy, loving, complicated adventure. Remember that dental health is essential, but don’t be too hard on yourself if teaching your children about their oral hygiene isn’t as easy as you expected. But the work you put in now will pay off for the rest of your child’s life–yours, too!
Pediatric Dental Care In Wisconsin
At Associated Dentists, we love treating kids- big and small. If you live near central Madison, call our office at (608) 238-7112. For far west side Madison and Verona, call our dental office at (608) 848-4000.