It’s never too early to help your child develop healthy oral hygiene habits that they will carry with them throughout their lives. There are many things you can do at home to help your child maintain great oral health between dental visits. Here are 8 ways to protect your child’s teeth and keep those smiles healthy and beautiful.
1. Encourage Healthy Eating Habits
Teach your child the importance of using moderation when eating foods or snacks that can damage their teeth. These foods include gum and chewy candies, starches like breads and pastas, citrus-y drinks, and sugary sodas.
Encourage your child to eat healthy foods like crunchy vegetables, greens and broccoli, dairy products, eggs, and water. When your child does eat a sugary snack, encourage them to brush their teeth afterwards.
A pediatric dentist can apply sealants to your child’s teeth. These sealants act as a protective coating to decrease cavities and tooth decay. Sealants are typically applied to hard-to-reach areas in your child’s mouth, such as the back molars.
3. Use a Properly Fitting Mouth Guard for Sports
It’s important to protect your child’s teeth when they are playing sports, especially martial arts, football, lacrosse, and soccer. These mouth guards help cushion the teeth, decreasing potential damage to the mouth if the child falls or is struck during an activity. Always use a mouth guard that is specially fitted for your child’s oral structures.
For active kids, using a mouth guard should become second-nature, just like shin guards and helmets.
4. Regular Brushing
Regular tooth brushing helps decrease tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease. Encourage your child to brush for two minutes, twice per day.
A great tip to keep your child motivated is to find a two-minute song they enjoy, and play it while they brush. When the song is over, they are done! You may need to monitor your child to ensure they brush for the full two minutes; make it even more fun by brushing your teeth alongside them.
5. Start Brushing Early
Maintaining healthy teeth begins even before they sprout their first tooth. Early oral hygiene habits include:
- Wipe your baby’s gums with a clean, wet rag after every feeding.
- After the first tooth appears, use a soft-bristled toothbrush to clean it twice a day.
- Around the age of two years, you can add a tiny dollop of toothpaste to your child’s brush.
- It’s recommended to begin flossing as soon as your baby has two teeth that are touching.
- Make sure to replace your child’s toothbrush at least every 4 months.
6. Be a Great Role Model
Whether it’s brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing regularly, or keeping your own routine dental appointments, being a good role model is an excellent way to encourage your kids to develop healthy oral hygiene habits.
7. Instructional Books and Videos
You can find many books and videos about oral hygiene that are designed to be entertaining and educational for your kids. Designed to answer the “but why” and “how do I” questions, they are a great way to teach your kids healthy habits and the importance of protecting their teeth.
8. Schedule Routine Pediatric Dental Visits
Your child can begin visiting the dentist as early as age one.
These early visits are important for many reasons:
- Your pediatric dentist can uncover potential oral issues such as overcrowding or cavities.
- Early visits help your child become accustomed to the dentist’s office.
- Your dentist may recommend preventive measures, such as sealants, cleanings, and fluoride treatments.
- Pediatric dentists provide support for the parents, such as proper brushing techniques and decreasing thumb-sucking or pacifier use.
It’s important to find a pediatric dentist that your child trusts and feels comfortable with. Ask for referrals and recommendations, check reviews, and, if possible, meet the team before your child’s first appointment.