Guest Blogger, Dr. Sheila Harris from Natomas Crossing Dental Care
Establishing proper dental habits early in your child’s life is the key to preventing tooth decay and cavities — the No. 1 chronic infectious disease affecting children in the U.S. Routine oral hygiene should start as early as your child’s first tooth appears and continue throughout life. Here are some tips on how to help your child develop lifelong dental habits and healthy teeth:
- Develop healthy habits at home. Parents play a significant role in helping their kids learn how to care for their teeth and gums properly. While a child is young, you should brush and floss for them. Kids love to mimic their parents, so set a good example by brushing your teeth twice a day for a full two minutes each time. Explain why it is important to keep teeth and gums healthy, and talk positively about the dentist to encourage a lifetime of good oral health habits. As children grow older and their brushing skills improve, they can begin cleaning their teeth on their own with your careful supervision.
- Choose kid-friendly dental products. When choosing oral care products, use those that are designed specifically for children. Generally, brushes with small heads are most effective for cleaning smaller mouths. Get children excited about oral hygiene by allowing them to choose their own toothbrush. Today’s kids can select from a variety of toothbrush styles and designs, including popular TV show characters. Fluoride toothpastes are also available in kid-friendly flavors, like grape and strawberry, which promote strong, healthy teeth and encourage your child to brush regularly. Make it a habit to change your child’s toothbrush every three months or when the bristles start to fray.
- Make brushing fun. The key to forming healthy oral health habits early is making dental care an enjoyable experience for your child, not a chore. This can be as simple as listening to a two-minute song while your child brushes, or role playing dentist with your child’s favorite stuffed animal. Today there are even smartphone apps that offer tooth brushing timers and educational games geared toward pediatric dental care to help get your kids excited about taking care of their teeth.
- Start dental visits early. Familiarizing your child with the dentist is one of the best ways to keep your child on the right path to a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums. The American Dental Association recommends that a child visit a dentist by age 1 or when the first tooth erupts. Early visits to the dentist can help your child become more comfortable with the dental office and procedures, which can go a long way to reduce anxiety about dental appointments in the future. At these important checkups, the dentist can examine your child’s teeth to detect early signs of decay, provide important treatment as needed, and give parents tips on caring for their child’s teeth.
- Praise your child for good brushing. Don’t be surprised if children offer some resistance to dental care from time to time. Continue to encourage and assist them in their oral health routine, and don’t forget to praise them when you notice they are putting forth a lot of effort. Some kids may even benefit from an incentive-based system that rewards them each time they demonstrate healthy dental habits, such as brushing without being asked or a cavity-free dental checkup.
Your child’s health and safety is top priority, and oral health is no exception. By starting early and making regular dental visits a habit, you can help your child develop healthy dental habits for life.
Author bio: Dr. Sheila Harris is Owner of Natomas Crossing Dental Care in Sacramento, California. Dr. Harris graduated from Northwestern University School of Dentistry and has been working as a licensed dentist since 2000. She is a dedicated member of several dental organizations, and has been one of the top general dentists in Sacramento for the past five years.