Oral Health for Children Starts Before They Have Teeth

by Joshua Allen, DMD, Owner & Dentist, Keep Smiling Family Dentistry

If you’re a parent, you know how hard it can be to get your kids to brush their teeth. They’re too busy playing, they don’t like the taste of toothpaste, they forget, they complain, they throw tantrums … the list goes on.

You may wonder if it’s even worth the hassle. After all, they’re just baby teeth, right?

Not so fast. Children with cavities can experience chronic pain, infection, difficulty eating and speaking and low self-esteem. Developing good oral health habits while they’re young is so important for preventing more serious problems later in life.

So how can you prevent cavities in kids without losing your sanity?

Start early. The best time to start taking care of your child’s teeth is before they even have any. You can wipe their gums with a soft cloth or a finger brush after each feeding to remove any bacteria or food residue.

As soon as their first tooth erupts, usually around 6 months, you can start brushing it with a soft-bristled toothbrush and a smear of fluoride toothpaste. You should also take children to see a dentist by their first birthday.

Make it fun. Brushing teeth doesn’t have to be a chore. Try playing music, singing songs, telling stories, using stickers or rewards, or letting them choose their own toothbrush and toothpaste. You can also brush your teeth together and make silly faces in the mirror.

The more you make it a positive and enjoyable experience, the more likely they will cooperate.

Be consistent. Kids thrive on routines. Parents should help their kids brush their teeth twice a day, preferably in the morning and right before bed, with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste until they are able to do it on their own.

Parents should also teach their kids how to floss once a day. Make it part of their daily schedule, and don’t skip it even when you’re tired, busy or traveling.

Limit sugar and snacks. Encourage water and healthy foods. Sugar is the main culprit behind cavities, as it feeds the bacteria that produce acid and erode the enamel of the teeth. Try to limit your child’s intake of sugary foods and drinks.

If they do have something sweet, make sure they rinse their mouth with water afterward.