As a parent, your child’s health is one of your top priorities, but don’t forget about his or her oral health, as it is connected to the body’s overall health and the sooner you create healthy oral habits, the more likely they will stick for life. Whether you have an infant or a school aged child, it’s never too late to get your child started on some healthy brushing habits, here are some tips to get you started:
Choose the Right Brush
Once your baby’s first teeth come in, you can use a soft bristle, infant/child sized toothbrush and lightly brush over the teeth and gums without toothpaste. Before your infant has teeth, it’s a good idea to get in the habit of wiping your baby’s gums with a soft washcloth to keep bacteria away and to get him or her used to cleaning his or her gums and soon-to-be teeth. Once your child is two years old, you can use a dab of children’s fluoride toothpaste (the size of a grain of rice) on the toothbrush and assist him or her with brushing gums and teeth. When he or she reaches the age of 3 – 6, use a pea sized amount of the same type of toothpaste.
It’s important to encourage independent teeth brushing, but you should never leave your young child unattended with a toothbrush or put him or her in charge of applying toothpaste to the brush. Since brushing teeth requires coordination, have your child hold the brush, but guide his hand across the teeth and gums. Once your child is able to tie his or her own shoes, he or she should have the proper coordination to brush teeth independently, although flossing is a little more complex and should be done by you.
Make it Fun
Some children like to brush their teeth, others do not. If your child’s twice a day brushing is a battle, don’t give up, be creative. It’s important that your child brushes his or her teeth for about two minutes. During this time, set a timer, sing their favorite song, or if you’re feeling creative, make up your own song about brushing teeth. If your young child responds well to a reward system, offer him or her a sticker or some other small prize. If you want to keep your child excited about teeth brushing, let him or her pick out a new toothbrush every three months and brush your teeth at the same time that he or she does.
Another challenge that many parents face when it comes to their child’s oral health is their child’s fear of visiting the dentist, even though many dentists strive to make it a pleasant experience.
If your child resists participating in oral health, explain why it’s important to have healthy and strong teeth and if you continue to face challenges, turn to your dentist or other parents for some helpful advice.