When and how should you start promoting good oral hygiene habits for kids?
The simple answer is the sooner, the better. The sooner we start forming good dental hygiene habits for children, the greater are the chances for healthy and beautiful teeth in the future.
The most important thing in oral hygiene for children is to take care of the child's teeth from the first months of their lives. If milk teeth are healthy, there is a bigger chance for strong permanent teeth. Teaching good oral hygiene habits to children should include cleaning teeth in the morning and in the evening, having appointments with the dentist and limiting snacks between meals.
0 – 2 years
Children are born with all tooth buds but they are covered by the gums. At the beginning of creating good oral hygiene habits for children we should clean the oral cavity with a gauze swab or soft washcloth, at least two times a day. It helps to remove food remains and bacteria from the gums and mouth. During teething, which usually takes place between the 6th and 9th month of life, you should also clean the mouth with a gauze swab. After a few days from the tooth eruption, you should start brushing with a baby toothbrush with soft bristles. At first, brush only with water, then consult your dentist or paediatrician to find out when is the appropriate time to start using kids' toothpaste.
Good oral hygiene is extremely important in the first months of the baby's life, otherwise tooth decay may attack the newly erupted teeth. To avoid the so called "baby bottle tooth decay", occurring in babies fed with milk, sugared mashes and juices, one should always take away the bottle after the baby has finished eating and should not put the baby to bed with it. To take care of the gums and teeth of a baby, one should use toothbrushes intended only for the youngest, which are made of soft bristles and fitted for the baby's mouth.
When the baby turns one, they should attend their first appointment with the dentist. During the appointment the parent can check if he/she takes good care of the baby's teeth and the baby has the opportunity to get to know the dentist's practice, which will help to reduce the fear of the dentist in the future.
Over the age of 2
When the baby turns two, you should start using kids' toothpaste (containing fluoride), which helps prevents tooth decay. Apply a small amount of paste onto the brush and make sure that the baby spits out everything after brushing. Before the baby learns how to wash the mouth, after every brushing clean the teeth with a swab moistened with water. Between 3 and 4 years of age is the time when children start learning to brush their teeth on their own. It is important to choose the right toothbrush, which even in the hands of a clumsy 3-year old, will reach the places with difficult access.
Before the child turns 3, he or she should be discouraged from sucking its thumb or pacifier, so that it won't turn into a habit which may cause problems with the healthy development of the mouth and teeth. Habitual thumb or pacifier sucking in the period of teething, that is between the 6th and 12th month of life, may lead to various occlusion abnormalities, such as an open bite, which may cause discomfort during biting, and early wear of teeth. Between 3 and 5 years of age one should visit the dentist every six months because check-up appointments help the early detection of tooth decay or abnormalities in teeth, which then can be eliminated more easily.
Over the age of 6
After turning 6 years old, a crucial moment for children is when milk teeth start falling out and permanent teeth start to appear. It is advisable to prepare your child for the falling out of teeth, so that it won't feel scared when it has to give away its first tooth to the "tooth fairy".
Together with the eruption of permanent teeth, when mixed dentition occurs, the adjacent surfaces of milk molars are more prone to tooth decay. That's why parents should start using dental floss to clean those areas.
A child isn't able to take good care of its mouth, that's why parents should supervise the cleaning and flossing of the child's teeth until the age of 8-9 years. They can correct the child's moves, if required, so that it won't form bad oral hygiene habits. One should pay attention to the cleaning of the side teeth, where more plaque builds up and which most frequently aren't brushed by children because they have difficulty reaching them. It is extremely important as normally the first molar erupts at the age of 6. One should remember that after turning 6 children should use a toothpaste with up to 1500 ppm of fluoride.
How Do I Help My Children Care for Their Teeth and Prevent Cavities?
Teaching your child proper oral care at a young age is an investment in his or her health that will pay lifelong dividends. You can start by setting an example; taking good care of your own teeth sends a message that oral health is something to be valued. And anything that makes taking care of teeth fun, like brushing along with your child or letting them choose their own toothbrush, encourages proper oral care.
To help your children protect their teeth and gums and greatly reduce their risk of getting cavities, teach them to follow these simple steps:
- Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste to remove plaque-the sticky film on teeth that's the main cause of tooth decay.
- Floss daily to remove plaque from between your teeth and under the gumline, before it can harden into tartar. Once tartar has formed, it can only be removed by a professional cleaning.
- Eat a well-balanced diet that limits starchy or sugary foods, which produce plaque acids that cause tooth decay. When you do eat these foods, try to eat them with your meal instead of as a snack-the extra saliva produced during a meal helps rinse food from the mouth.
- Use dental products that contain fluoride, including toothpaste.
- Make sure that your children's drinking water is fluoridated. If your water supply; municipal, well or bottled does not contain fluoride, your dentist or paediatrician may prescribe daily fluoride supplements.
- Take your child to the dentist for regular check-ups.