You want to help your child come home with that perfect attendance ribbon at the end of the quarter. Did you know a major part of keeping your son or daughter in school is taking care of their oral hygiene? At Ashburn Children’s Dentistry, we believe good dental hygiene practices starts at home from a young age.
The Importance of Family Dentistry for Children
Family dentistry is crucial to the health of your child. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Public Health, children between the ages of 5 and 17 missed between 58 and 80 hours of school each year due to toothaches and other dental pain. To take their children to a family dentistry practice, parents missed just an average of 2.5 work days.
Benefits of Good Oral Health in Children
Did you know that oral pain is a significant factor in substandard grades for children? Pain prevents children from focusing, understanding new information and retaining that information. Just as important as your child’s education, good oral hygiene helps to prevent gum disease and cavities.
6 Tips for Kids
1. Schedule a Dental Checkup at Least Once a Year
Don’t forget to schedule a checkup for your child with your local family dentistry office at least once a year. Try to schedule your child’s visit before the school year starts so he or she doesn’t have to miss any school for the appointment.
After the appointment, we can schedule your next appointment so you don’t forget. During the visit, you can expect us to look for cavities, decay and tooth discoloration. We will also inspect your child’s mouth for a growing jaw or teeth and thoroughly clean and polish the teeth.
2. Teach Your Child Proper Oral Hygiene
Until your child reaches his or her seventh birthday, you should play an active role in his or her oral hygiene habits. Make sure your child brushes their teeth and rinses with mouthwash at least twice daily. This will create habits that will carry with them for the rest of their lives. To help with brushing, you can set a three-minute timer or download an app to help your child stay motivated to brush their teeth.
Some parents like to put a poster on their kid’s bathroom wall with a poem or song to help him or her stay motivated to brush their teeth. For example, the following song can be sung to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat:
Brush, brush, brush your teeth. Brush them every day! Floss them and take care of them. They’ll stay white that way.
Another great idea to get your kids motivated to brush their teeth is buy them a toothbrush that plays a song clip for the dentist-recommended two minutes that a child should brush their teeth.
Finally, don’t forget about flossing. To encourage your child to floss, floss your own teeth in front of them. They’ll want to be just like you and try themselves. Help your son or daughter floss their teeth until they learn how to do it themselves. Then, encourage them to floss every night before they go to bed. Some households implement a “sticker” system. A child gets a sticker put on a calendar every night she flosses her teeth. When she gets seven stickers in a row, she gets a book.
3. Limit the Candy and Sweets Your Child Eats
Candies that are sticky and sugary increase the levels of harmful acids in the mouth. Unfortunately, it can take saliva up to 20 minutes to neutralize these harmful acids. If your child eats sticky candy several times daily, there is a significantly increased risk of cavities. Rather than giving your child a sugary treat before dinner, opt for a healthy sweet snack. Fresh fruits and nuts are great choices.
If you give your child sweets or candy, do it after a meal. The food particles from the meal will help to protect the teeth from the sugar. Teach your child that she needs to brush her teeth after the sweet snack to remove the food particles and sugar left in her mouth.
4. Check Your Child’s Teeth Regularly
The most tell-tale signs that cavities and oral pain will occur are discoloration, stains and plaque buildup. If you notice that your child’s teeth are discolored, stained, or have a build-up of plaque, or her gums are red or swollen, schedule an appointment with your local family dentistry office for a checkup and cleaning.
5. Be Open to Fluoride Treatments and Sealants
Fluoride is often added to a municipality’s drinking water or toothpaste to help strengthen your teeth and protect against tooth decay and cavities. However, many families in Cook County get their water from wells. If your child drinks well water regularly and is deficient in fluoride, we strongly recommend a fluoride treatment for your son or daughter.
Besides fluoride treatments, your local family dentistry clinic can apply a sealant to your son or daughter’s teeth. This seals the dips and grooves in the teeth, acting as a protective barrier. This protective seal prevents bacteria and plaque from colonizing in the teeth’s dips and grooves, creating cavities and tooth decay.
6. Know How to Handle Dental Emergencies
We all hope our child avoids dental emergencies. However, they do happen occasionally. Most often, horseplay is the cause of a tooth that becomes cracked or knocked out. Falls can also result in dental emergencies. If a dental emergency occurs, schedule an appointment for emergency dental care.
If your child knocks out her tooth accidentally, pick it up carefully without touching the root. Make sure you keep it moist. Either you can put the tooth back in its socket temporarily, or you can place it between your daughter’s gum and cheek on the way to her pediatric dentist. If the tooth falls somewhere you feel it shouldn’t go back in your child’s mouth, place the tooth in a small glass of milk.
If your child cracks her tooth, have her rinse her mouth out with a glass of warm water. This keeps the tooth clean and removes any debris that may be in the mouth. To mitigate the risk of swelling or inflammation, place a cold cloth against your daughter’s cheek. Give us a call for further care instructions at (703) 723-8440.
Best Practices for Children’s Oral Hygiene
With the variety of toothbrushes specifically designed for children on the market, you’ll have no trouble finding one that suits your child. Whether she likes Captain America or Elsa, have her walk down the oral care aisle with you and pick out whichever one catches her eye.
If she loves her toothbrush, she is more likely to use it without too much encouragement from you. Just make sure it has soft bristles and change it out every three months or so. Buy four of the same toothbrush at the store so you don’t have to go toothbrush shopping for your child more than once a year. And you don’t risk her favorite toothbrush being out of stock when you go to pick up a replacement!
Stick to a Routine
Kids may seem impulsive and wild sometimes, but they love structure. It makes them feel safe. The most important part of keeping your kids’ teeth and gums in good working order is setting a routine for them. Put a to-do list for your kids on the fridge. It should include brushing their teeth after breakfast and brushing, flossing and rinsing right before bed.
It’s not just a good idea to floss your teeth in front of your kids. Brush your teeth and tongue in front of them, too. Make sure they understand they need to clean all their teeth rather than just the front ones. Some toothbrushes vibrate in 30-second increments to inform your child it’s time to switch to a different quadrant of the mouth. Alternatively, you can sing a 30-second song for each quadrant of their mouth that they need to brush.
Finally, if your child suffers from halitosis but does not have gum disease, brushing her tongue may not be enough. Ask about a tongue scraper when you come in for your child’s first appointment.
Teach Them About Rinsing
Once your children get down the routine of brushing their teeth for at least two minutes twice daily, it’s time to teach them about flossing. Explain to them that even when they brush really well, there may be some food particles stuck on the gumline or between the teeth. Show them how to floss their teeth gently on your own teeth. This ensures they don’t hurt their gums.
Encourage your children to floss their teeth after snacks. Finally, have them rinse their mouth with gentle mouthwash for 20 to 30 seconds. Explain to them the importance of not swallowing the mouthwash and make sure it’s alcohol-free, just in case. Finish your child’s dental hygiene routine with a swig of water to wash away the taste of the mouthwash.
Frequently Asked Questions About Children’s Oral Hygiene
1. When Should My Child Start Brushing Her Own Teeth?
We recommend brushing and flossing your child’s teeth for her until around age six. When she’s coordinated enough to tie her own shoes, let her handle her oral care by herself. Just make sure you’re watching carefully to ensure she’s doing a good job.
Kids as young as 18 months may want to grab her toothbrush and brush her own teeth just like mommy or daddy. It’s fine to let her practice, but go behind her and finish to make sure the job is adequate.
To get your child to stand still during flossing, turn it into a game. Tell her she needs to stand as still as a statue for a couple minutes. If she does a good job, you can reward her with an extra story or lullaby at bedtime.
2. How Do I Make Flossing For My Child Easier?
When you come in for your first pediatric dental appointment, ask us about a Y-shaped tool that keeps the floss in place. This prevents you from fumbling with a long string of floss and makes a world of difference in the process. You may even be able to find such a tool in your child’s favorite animal shape.
Schedule Your Initial Consultation Today
Good oral hygiene is essential for preventing cavities, plaque buildup, discoloration and more. But teaching your children good oral hygiene practices can be tough. To learn more about family dentistry for your children, contact the dental experts at Ashburn Children’s Dentistry in Ashburn, VA today to schedule your initial consultation today.
It’s not too early to teach your children good dental hygiene, and we’re your partner in the process, helping your kids learn about their oral health in a warm, welcoming, kid-friendly environment!