February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. Start practicing good dental health habits when they are young. Here are a few tips to keep your child’s smile healthy:
- Avoid giving your child sweetened liquids
- Brush your child’s teeth twice a day and floss once a day
- Make sure your child gets enough fluoride
- Start regular dental visits by age 3
- Ask your dentist for advice on sealants and mouth guards
- Keep your dentist informed of any changes in your child’s health
- Set a good example for your child!
Patients often tell me they have a hard time getting their young children to brush their teeth. It doesn’t have to be a battle each time. Here are some ideas to try with your kids:
- Start young. Toddlers love to imitate their parents. Give them a toothbrush and sit with your child on the bathroom floor so he/she can watch you use a toothbrush and try to copy it.
- Have your child brush the teeth of their stuffed animal or doll.
- Make it fun! Sign a song, read a story, turn it into a game.*
- Let your child practice brushing your teeth, while you brush his or hers.
- Have your child pick out their own toothbrush and toothpaste at the store.
- Children learn from example. If they see that you are taking good care of your teeth they will want to do the same.
*See 7 Toothbrushing Tunes Kids (and Parents) Will Love from the American Dental Association (ADA).
Visiting the dentist can be scary for young children. Ease your child’s fear with these tips:
- The earlier your child visits the dentist, the better. Dr. Baker recommends bringing your child in for his/her first visit around age 3.
- Prepare your child for his/her first visit but don’t give too much information that will encourage questions. Don’t mention fillings or any other treatments, which will cause anxiety.
- Avoid using words like “shot, hurt or pain” when talking about the dentist. Instead use positive words like “clean, strong and healthy.”
- Before your child’s first visit, play dentist with him/her. You be the dentist and have your child be the patient. Count your child’s teeth and brush them with a toothbrush.
- Don’t bribe your child with the promise of a sugary treat after a dentist visit, as it sends the wrong message. Instead, praise your child for good behavior.
- Teach your child the importance of dental health, telling him/her that visiting the dentist is a necessity for maintaining a healthy smile. Set a good example by visiting the dentist regularly yourself.
You know the guidelines: Your kids should brush teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste for two minutes to help prevent tooth decay, cavities and promote oral health. But how often do your kids actually brush for the full two minutes? To kids, two minutes can feel like an eternity! Here are some ways to make brushing fun and easy for parents and kids:
- Brush with your child–Stand side-by-side in front of the bathroom mirror and brush together. Have fun. Let your child mimic your brushing technique.
- Set a timer–Electronic timers are readily available, but if you can find a small two minute hourglass timer, even better.
- Cute toothbrushes–Great-looking children’s brushes are in stores everywhere. Choose one that’s small enough for your child to hold comfortably, with a small, rounded head and very soft, polished bristles. Every few months you should replace it—particularly for preschoolers who tend to chew while they brush.
- Tasty toothpaste–Use toothpaste made for kids … it’s a safe and non-abrasive version, in mild flavors that kids love.
- Say ahhhhh!–Your child can’t say “ahhh” with his or her mouth closed. As you brush, suggest varying the pitch, tone, and rhythm of the “ahhh” to keep things interesting.
- Bring a friend–At bedtime, invite your child’s favorite stuffed animal into the bathroom to watch the brushing.
- Make a sticker poster–Hang a piece of bright construction paper on the bathroom wall. Each time your child has a thorough brushing, he or she can choose a sticker or star and put it on the poster.
Sources: Orajel and www.sheknows.com