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Learn More About the Importance of Oral Hygiene for Kids

Many parents don’t twice about the importance of oral hygiene for their children. Their teeth are falling out anyway, so what’s the point? This is a dangerous mindset to have. Oral health habits should be taught to children early. Those habits will be honed and continue when they’re adults. If the habits aren’t formed early, the children may not take care of their teeth as they grow older. As a result, they might suffer from gum disease, tooth loss, and other health problems. This article will discuss how important it is for your children to be taught oral hygiene.

When Should You Start?

Few parents know when to start teaching their children about brushing. Most might even wait until teeth start falling out before introducing good brushing habits. That delay could prove detrimental. You should introduce brushing the moment you first notice a tooth emerging in your baby’s mouth. However, it shouldn’t be a brush that’s used. Instead, use a piece of gauze or even a soft cloth. With that cloth, you should gently clean both sides of the tooth. Cleaning should take place after the baby’s last feeding of the day.

It’s around the time when the baby has produced eight teeth that a toothbrush can be used. Look for an infant toothbrush. These are smaller than traditional toothbrushes and also have softer bristles. You can also start using fluoride-free toothpaste that’s made for babies. You can expect that the baby will likely want to swallow the paste, so be sure that the toothpaste is child-friendly. The amount that you use should only be pea-sized. Anything more can create a lot of foam that could result in choking the baby.

At around 18 to 24 months, the toddler should be able to hold the toothbrush on their own. This is the perfect time to teach them how to brush their teeth. You should begin by letting them see their own teeth in a mirror. They can examine each one. Stand beside them and brush your own teeth, so they can follow your example. By making this a bonding experience, the child is more likely to brush their teeth in the future. It becomes fun for them and a chance to spend time with you.

You should show them how to make circles on their teeth with the brush. They should also be taught how to brush back and forth both on the teeth and their gums. Many children and adults don’t effectively brush their gums. A lot of bacteria exists on the gums. Take the time to show your child how to brush their games and stress the importance of brushing them.

Spitting is the next concept that is difficult for children. Some simply can’t control water in their mouth yet. Others find the actual physical action to be difficult. Keep practicing with them. Once toddlers get the hang of it, they’ll likely find spitting the best part of brushing their teeth. For now, brushing should only take about a minute.

Throughout the instructional period, you should praise the child. Positive reinforcement is the key to reinforcing good brushing habits. While flossing is not needed at this point in life, you can introduce it to them by doing it on your own teeth. If you’re feeling brave, you can even have them help floss your teeth. This might make them think the activity is fun. Since it’s also restricted to adults, it might make them more eager to perform it themselves when they become older.

Once your child starts to lose their teeth, around the age of five or six, that’s when it’s time to pick up flossing. Their adult teeth will be further set apart than their baby teeth and easier to floss. They’ll likely need a lot of supervision to ensure that they’re flossing their teeth well. As more adult teeth come in, you should increase the brushing time to two minutes.

In regards to mouthwash, children won’t always need it. However, some dentists suggest using a mouthwash that has fluoride within it. This can help protect the enamel of their teeth right from the start.

Developing Habits

By starting early, you’re laying the foundation for good oral habits for your child’s adult life. Dental health can be something that is easily looked over since it doesn’t seem like it hurts you immediately. However, prolonged bad habits can cause a lot of problems in the long-term. Children, too, can have bad oral problems if they don’t take care of their teeth. Even not taking care of their baby teeth can lead to development problems. Establish those habits to ward off some of these potentially unpleasant oral problems in your child.


With the amount of sugar that is in everything, your child is going to take a lot into their bodies. Their teeth are the first to get hit by sugar. This ingredient along with a few others found in carbonated drinks, gummy snacks, and other kid favorites can wear down the enamel of the tooth. A hole forms as the tooth degrades and fills with rot and bacteria. A cavity has formed.

These can sometimes be extremely painful for children. If they’re not treated, the tooth can worsen. The rot can even spread to neighboring teeth. Cavities can occur in both baby teeth and adult teeth. Having them filled or pulled can be a traumatic event for a child. They may never want to visit the dentist again. Prevention is key.

You should try to keep your child away from sugary foods. However, if they find themselves getting into it anyway, then brushing and flossing can help protect their teeth. Have them drink a lot of water, too, to wash out the sugar and bacteria in their mouths. By doing so, you can keep them from developing cavities and causing other dental problems in their life later on.

Tooth Loss

Another problem that may be a result of bad oral hygiene in kids is tooth loss. If this occurs in a baby tooth, you might not think twice about it. After all, they’re going to lose the tooth eventually anyway. However, premature loss of teeth can cause structural deformities to occur in their jaw. The teeth and the jawbone have a close relationship. The jawbone relies on the pressure that the teeth provide in order to keep its shape. Teeth, in return, rely on the jawbone for support and strength.

Without a tooth present, the forces of the mouth are thrown out of whack. The jawbone might shift. The teeth that come in might not be straight or could become overcrowded. These are all issues that can cause the development of your child to suffer.

Overcrowded Teeth

Let’s examine overcrowded teeth more closely. A result of tooth loss or other problems, overcrowded teeth can cause a lot of pain for children when they’re first coming in. There’s a lot of pressure and rupture through the gums in one location. Your child may be more prone to infections, too. That infection can spread and give them a sore throat. Or it can spread to other teeth and either cause them to fall out or require filling.

Overcrowded teeth also can cause speech impediments. Your child may not be able to form certain letters easily because of the teeth bunched up in one area of their mouth. This difficulty in speech can then impact the rest of their development and performance in school. They may even suffer from an inability to make friends because of their impediment.

Luckily, overcrowded teeth can be fixed at the dentist’s office. However, prevention begins with good oral hygiene habits and mindful watching of their teeth growth.

Gum Disease

There’s a lot of discussion about gum disease. Gingivitis, or gum disease, is when the gums in the mouth become infected. It occurs when an individual has poor brushing or flossing habits. Plaque forms on teeth and this plaque starts to harden and become a shell. By this point, no amount of brushing or flossing can remove the plaque. Only the tools at a dentist’s office can clear it away.

Plaque is a problem because if the child is unable to brush the area beneath it, then bacteria is growing there. A cavity can form or the tooth can decay. Gum disease can occur when there’s too much plaque in the mouth. It can create sores in the mouth that are extremely painful. Children may be unable to focus on anything else aside from the pain in their mouths.

It can also make your gums bleed. In fact, bleeding gums is the first sign of gum disease. It can also make chewing extremely difficult because of the pain. Your child may not want to eat because it hurts too much. Finally, gum disease can result in tooth loss. Once tooth loss begins, it’s hard to stop it. Because teeth rely on each other, if one goes missing, then those around it are likely to loosen and fall out, too.

One last interesting note on gum disease is that it has also been linked to conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Although more research is needed, it’s clear that gum disease can have a devastating effect on the overall health of an individual. For a child, who is at risk with any kind of illness, gum disease should be avoided at all costs. That begins with proper oral hygiene.

Thumb Sucking

Not all children suck their thumbs. Those that do, however, find it a comforting habit. However, this habit isn’t a good hygiene practice. For one, it introduces harmful bacteria into the mouth. Unless they’ve developed a habit of cleaning their hands, you can be sure that the germs on those thumbs are headed right for their mouths.

Besides just introducing potentially harmful bacteria to their bodies, thumb sucking can also apply pressure to the tiny teeth in their mouths. As the pressure continues, the teeth can start to be pushed forward. As a result, they might need braces to correct the protruding teeth. Braces can be a nuisance for children, but they’re actually a great thing for children with crooked teeth to have.

Since crooked teeth can cause tooth loss just as much as overcrowded teeth can, it’s important that you have them fixed as soon as possible. The earlier that it is done in a child’s life, the better their teeth will be when they’re older. Finally, do your best to break your child of their thumb-sucking habit.

Visit a Dentist

There are plenty of reasons for what can happen to a child if they’re not taught the importance of oral hygiene. As a parent, you want to help set them up for a successful future. They can’t have that success if they’re constantly seeking treatment for tooth pain and tooth loss. Those are expenses that can run them up over time.

One last habit that plays a part in oral hygiene is regular visits to the dentist. A child can brush all they want, but it doesn’t replace a visit to the dentist’s office. They have the equipment, experience, and knowledge to clean teeth effectively, preserve their health, and notice any problems early-on. You should take your child to the dentist as soon as you can and make the experience a fun and comforting one. This limits the amount of anxiety and nerves that they’ll have for future visits. It also means that they are more likely to visit the dentist as an adult.

Get In Touch with Us for More Information

To learn more about the importance of oral hygiene for kids, we warmly invite you to reach out and make an appointment with Ashburn Children’s Dentistry. At our convenient location in Ashburn, VA, our caring and devoted team of professionals will be pleased to answer any questions you may have. Contact us today to set up your consultation – we look forward to speaking with you!

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