Teaching your children healthy oral hygiene habits from an early age is your best defence against tooth decay and other dental concerns. But, knowing where to start is sometimes more of a challenge. If your child has developed teeth, then it’s not too soon to start instilling healthy habits, and the best way to do that is by involving your child in learning and developing these skills. As a parent, it’s important that you know what oral health activities your child be practising as well as have a few tricks up your sleeve to make these habits a little more fun.
When Should You Start?
As soon your child’s baby teeth first make an appearance, they are at risk for decay, which typically is right around 6 months. Decay of the teeth in infants and toddlers is traditionally referred to as Baby Bottle Tooth Decay as it often occurs in the upper front teeth and is related to having late-night bottles without properly cleansing the teeth after. This and any type of tooth decay is preventable, though, which is why it is so important to start healthy habits early.
Most children have a complete set of 20 baby teeth by the time they reach their third birthday. So, taking care of your child’s teeth from the first sight of them throughout their life is important. While you baby or toddler won’t necessarily be able to brush his or her teeth on his or her own, making the practising a regular habit will help you child naturally adopt the practice when the time comes.
Where Do Healthy Habits Start?
Even before your child has teeth, you can start preparing him or her for regular oral hygiene activities. Healthy habits start early and with you, the parent instilling daily practices in your child.
In the first few days after birth, begin wiping your child’s gums clean with a clean moist cloth. Many babies get their four front teeth somewhere around six months; however, others don’t have any teeth until close to 12 or 14 months. In either case, as soon as your child has his or her first tooth, you should begin brushing the child’s tooth with a fluoride toothpaste. The appropriate amount of paste for a child this size, though, is no larger than that of a grain of rice.
From age 3 to 6, your child should use a pea-sized amount of paste and brush twice each day – morning and night or as suggested by a dentist. It is important for you to watch your child as he or she brushes to ensure that he or she is doing a thorough job and to remind your child to avoid swallowing any toothpaste. Until you feel your child is capable of brushing on his or her own, you should continue brushing your child’s teeth and/or monitoring the process.
When Is Flossing Important?
Flossing is another important component of a healthy oral hygiene routine; however, flossing might not need to begin quite as early as brushing, depending on the child. Flossing helps remove food particles and other debris that get stuck between the teeth. You should begin flossing your child’s teeth once he or she has two teeth that touch. Between ages 2 and 3, you can start teaching your child to floss; however, he or she will require supervision until roughly 8 years old.
Just like with brushing it is important that you and your child follow the right protocol to get the greatest benefit from the habit. Flossing should be done at least once a day for a period of roughly two minutes. The process is pretty simple but extremely important. Begin by cutting of a piece of floss roughly 18 inches long. Proceed by wrapping the ends of the floss around the middle or index fingers on both hands. Then, gently guide the floss between the teeth, being sure to move the floss carefully around the tooth and under the gum line. It is important to floss between the gum line and along each side of the tooth.
Flossing can sometimes be difficult for children and parents depending on the child’s sensitivity. In many cases, finding and using an effective water pick is a faster, easier way to clean between your child’s teeth to remove plaque, debris, and other build-up.
Is Using Mouthwash Really That Important?
Most people pretty readily accept the benefits of brushing and flossing, but they may be more hesitant about using mouthwash every day. It is just as important to regularly use a good mouthwash as it is to brush and floss regularly, though.
It is important to make sure your child understands that mouthwash is not a substitute for brushing and flossing; however, it is an important complement to his or her routine. A mouthwash that contains fluoride is an excellent choice, as it helps prevent tooth decay. Likewise, an option that contains an antiseptic helps reduce the bacteria in the mouth that causes gum disease, which is surprisingly the leading cause of tooth loss in the UK.
Choosing the right mouthwash for your child is important to help you get the biggest benefit. So, take some time to consider all of the options. A light or fruity flavour may be better for your child than some of the more intense mint flavours. Likewise, it is important that your child’s mouthwash contain both fluoride and an antiseptic as previously mentioned. The right mouthwash used on a regular basis will help your child avoid cavities, plaque build-up, bad breath, gum disease, and more.
How Can You Make Oral Hygiene Fun?
Getting kids to want to brush their teeth and participate in other components of their oral hygiene is tough. One of the best ways to get them involved, though, is to make it fun, which you can do by incorporating a number of different activities.
- Make It a Family Thing
Your child likely mimics everything you do already, so why not make that a positive thing. Brush and floss with your child, and make the habit a family thing.
- Use a Special Brush
A fun toothbrush can make all the difference for your child when it comes to brushing. A brush with a favourite character or one that plays a fun song while your child is brushing is a great way to add a little more fun to the habit.
- Race to the Finish
No, you don’t necessarily want your child hurrying through his brushing, but if it’s a race to the finish to see who can outlast the timer, you’ll be sure that your child is brushing for the right amount of time. Invest in a sand timer or pull up an app on your phone to time your child’s brushing and see who can last the longest.
Getting your child involved in his or her oral hygiene routine is the best way to prevent dental decay. You can start working with your child as soon as he or she starts getting teeth to develop healthy habits that last. Brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash are all important components of your child’s oral hygiene routine, and you can get him or her more into the habit by using some activities to make it more fun.