Children who have healthy teeth are less likely to develop tooth decay, gum disease and other oral health problems. Parents can help their kids by making dental hygiene a routine, introducing teeth strengthening vitamins to their diet and scheduling regular dental checkups.
Start brushing your child’s teeth with a smear of fluoride toothpaste when their first tooth appears. Brush their teeth at least twice a day and before bed.
The first step in keeping kids’ teeth healthy is cleaning them daily. Begin with a soft cloth wet with warm water. Wipe the gums to remove germs before their first tooth comes in (around 6 months). Once teeth come in, brush them with a soft toothbrush and a small amount of fluoride toothpaste. Children should brush for about two minutes and make sure to clean the inside of the mouth and tongue. Parents can also help by brushing with their children to teach them the proper technique and set a good example.
Limiting sugary foods and snacks and eating a mouth-healthy diet can also help prevent cavities. Encourage your kids to eat calcium-rich foods, like cheese and low-sugar yogurt, as well as crunchy fruits and vegetables. Also, make it a priority to visit the dentist on a regular basis (every six months). Fidelis Care offers routine and preventive dental care for kids through the New York State-sponsored Child Health Plus program, premiums are free or $15 based on family income.
Flossing removes bacteria and food stuck between teeth, helping to prevent tooth decay. It is important to teach children to floss regularly and to make it a part of their daily routine. Flossing can be challenging for kids because they have less manual dexterity, but it is important to help them establish the habit early.
Try introducing your child to flossing when they have baby teeth, by running a clean washcloth along their gum lines to clear away harmful bacteria. Teach them to floss with a thread that is flavored and colorful, like a ribbon or string featuring their favorite character, to make it more fun.
It is also a good idea to get them their own toothbrush and floss to make it more personal and encourage them to brush and floss daily. Finally, children should be encouraged to drink plenty of water to help keep their mouths clean. In addition to promoting oral health, it will flush sugar from their teeth and reduce the risk of cavities.
Eat a Healthy Diet
The food your children eat and drink has a big impact on their oral health. Sugary foods and drinks encourage the growth of bacteria that cause cavities. Sticky foods like raisins, dried figs, gummy candies and other dried fruits can also trap plaque on teeth.
Instead of sugary snacks, offer calcium-rich options like cheese or yogurt. Aged cheeses like cheddar and Swiss are high in “good” fats and help trigger saliva flow that washes away food particles.
Vegetables like carrots and celery are crunchy, low in sugar and have a natural plaque-removing effect. Leafy vegetables like broccoli and spinach are rich in folic acid, calcium and other nutrients that support healthy teeth and gums.
Keep your kids hydrated by offering water throughout the day. Send them to school with a bottle of water in their backpack or car, and try to avoid giving them sugary drinks like soda.
Schedule Regular Checkups
Children should see a dentist at least every 6 months or as soon as their first tooth appears. This way they become familiar with the dental office and learn that visiting the dentist is a positive thing.
Kids can start brushing their teeth by themselves, but parents should supervise and help them until they are about age 3. Kids should also floss daily using a small toothbrush and a rice-sized “smear” of toothpaste with fluoride. It is best to avoid sugary foods and drinks, including juice and candy. Kids should not suck on their thumb, finger or pacifier and should stop if they have already started doing so, ideally by age 3 to prevent permanent damage.
If your child is reluctant to brush or floss, try to make it fun. Play music, use a timer or let them choose a toothbrush featuring their favorite character to encourage them. You can also get them to eat mouth-healthy snacks like cheese, which has the added benefit of helping kids build strong bones.