Most parents know that having healthy teeth is essential, but many do not know how to properly teach their child to care for his teeth. Fortunately, there is much you can do as a parent to give your child a head start to a lifetime of dental health.
1. Provide healthy food and beverages.
Surprisingly, the health of your child’s teeth may start in the kitchen instead of at the bathroom sink. Most of the foods that contribute to overall poor health are damaging to teeth as well. A balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables will make for a stronger body and stronger teeth.
Sugar is often a precursor to cavities and other oral health problems. Babies should not go to bed with a bottle of milk or formula. The sugars in these beverages will stay on their teeth and cause plaque to form as they sleep. As a child grows older, it is important to limit sugary sodas and candy.
2. Buy the right tools.
Young children just learning to brush their own teeth are often just learning fine motor skills as well. Make sure that your child’s toothbrush has a comfortable handle that is large enough for him to maneuver. To encourage gentle brushing, buy only soft bristles.
Flossing is difficult for small children to master. It is usually not even necessary until the child has teeth that touch one another. There are many flossing tools available that make teeth easier to reach. Purchase one that fits your child’s hand, and be ready to help him as long as he needs it.
Some children enjoy using the disclosure tablets that turn their teeth blue when plaque is present. This helps them know what area needs the most brushing. It also shows them that their efforts produce results when the blue disappears.
3. Make learning fun.
Small children love to play games, and there are ample opportunities as you help them care for their teeth. Sing a song as they brush to encourage them to keep brushing until the song is over. Help them look for “bugs” on their teeth as you brush the back teeth. Modeling is always the best way to teach, so let your child watch you as you brush your teeth and try to imitate you. Affirm his progress as you “check” when he finishes.
4. Employ a professional.
It is essential that your child have a good relationship with his dentist from the beginning. Take him along with you to your own appointment. The dentist can give him a “ride” in the chair or “count” his teeth. This will make him more comfortable when it is time for his own appointment.
Your dentist will probably suggest that your child come for a checkup when he is between two and four years of age. This will typically be non-invasive, but it will give you and your dentist an idea of problem areas when brushing or flossing as well as his general oral health.
Josephine and Ann Brown, a Toronto Dentist and a Scarborough Dentist respectively, are passionate about providing patients with excellent dental care. Their goal is to educate families on oral health.