Good habits do start young & inculcating good dental care habits at a young age can go a long way in maintaining and improving your kid’s oral health.
The need for dental care starts even before the teeth break out through the gums. Here are some do’s and don’ts at various stages of your child’s dental development:
Before teeth begin to develop
To avoid food remaining stuck in the baby’s gums, use a clean damp cloth to remove any food particles from the gums twice a day & in the morning after the first feed and right before bed. This prevents the growth of bacteria.
Some babies are habituated to being put to bed with a bottle. Sleeping with a bottle of formula, milk, or any other drink increases the risk of severe tooth decay. If absolutely necessary to put your baby to sleep with a bottle, try filling it with cool water.
The role of fluoride in teeth care
Fluoride is known to reduce / prevent cavities both in primary (baby) and permanent (adult) teeth. Fluoride hardens the tooth enamel, thereby making them stronger. Many cities require fluoride to be added to tap water & most babies get their needed fluoride intake from drinking water. Check with local authorities if your tap water contains fluoride & if not, you may check with your doctor if fluoride supplement / varnish may be suitable for your child.
Caring for your Toddler’s teeth – Brushing and Flossing
You can start using a soft bristled, child-sized toothbrush when your child is 1-2 years of age. Help your kid to brush for 2 minutes & ensure all sides of the teeth are brushed well. There can be fun ways to teach your child to brush their teeth; try getting your child to imitate how you brush your teeth. You can also brush each other’s teeth!
Given that children have the tendency to swallow toothpaste early on, you may want to select a toothpaste that doesn’t have fluoride in it & it is highly recommended to consult a doctor before selecting a fluoride toothpaste. Once the child is old enough to spit, you may switch to a toothpaste with fluoride in it.
A little goes a long way & for children younger than 3 years, an amount of toothpaste that is the size of a grain of rice is typically recommended. For children older than 3 years, a pea-sized amount would suffice. It is also important to teach your child to brush their tongue, to remove bacteria from the mouth.
When is a good time to start flossing? As soon as your kid has two teeth side by side, gentle flossing is recommended. Children may require help flossing their teeth till they are about the age of 10.
Preventing your child from getting cavities
Given the difficulty associated with brushing children’s teeth, cavities are common in children. Cavities are holes that form in teeth & these may be the result of bacteria building up in teeth; or sugar in meals turning into acid, eating away at the teeth. The following steps can help you ensure your kid’s good teeth and gum health:
- Brush your child’s teeth at least twice a day.
- Limit your kid’s intake of sugary foods, snacks, candies. Such foods attract cavities causing bacteria.
- You may also want to brush your child’s teeth after giving him medicines such as cough syrups, which have sugar content in them.
- Help your child develop a healthy diet & including rich sources of calcium such as Milk, broccoli and yoghurt.
- Visit the dentist regularly & you child’s first dental checkup should be scheduled by the first birthday in order to detect problems, if any, early.
Other considerations for long-term dental health
Children usually have the habit of sucking their thumbs, pacifiers at a young age & most of them lose the habit by the age of 4. You may consider consulting with your dentist if the habit persists & prolonged sucking of thumbs, pacifiers may cause teeth alignment problems, especially once the permanent teeth start developing.
How can you ensure active child participation in dental care?
The trick is to make the entire process a fun activity for the kid, rather than a schedule-based exercise.
- Let you child select his or her own toothbrush. Selecting toothbrushes with their favorite color / cartoon character will help increase their motivation
- Same goes for the selection of the toothpaste & selecting toothpaste flavors based on their favorites.
- Include stories / books that help convey the importance of dental health in the reading / e-learning video schedules.
- Use a timer to ensure brushing for 2 minutes & you can let them start and end the timer routines.
- Use positive re-enforcements’ / rewards for good dental care practices (avoiding sugary treats as rewards of course).