Teach Children About Dental Care From an Early Age

When was the last time your kids saw the dentist? Are they brushing and flossing regularly? Dental care is important, even from a very early age, and neglecting your kids’ oral health can cause many painful and sometimes permanent problems. Here are a few points to consider.

Start early

I’ve known too many parents who simply didn’t worry about dental care for their children until they were several years old. “They’re just baby teeth, they’ll fall out anyway,” is a common refrain. Sadly, these parents are uninformed about the importance of early dental care.

The American Dental Association recommends that babies have their first visit with a dentist by age one, and that they continue with regularly scheduled visits thereafter. Parents should start cleaning their baby’s gums with a soft cloth from birth, and move on to a baby toothbrush and water as their little one’s first teeth emerge. Fluoride toothpaste should not be added until age two.

Reinforce good habits

As your children get older, they will assume more responsibility for their own dental care. Don’t leave them on their own too quickly, as proper brushing techniques can take time to master. Instead, let them gradually take over brushing and flossing, with corrections as needed. And periodically check up on even your older children to make sure they are maintaining good oral care and not simply rushing through the routine.

Reinforce a young child’s good dental habits by using fun techniques, like a sticker chart to keep track of brushing and flossing. Our family dentist also gave each of my kids their own egg timer with brightly colored sand, so they’d know just how long to brush.

Shop regularly for supplies

If your kids are new to brushing their own teeth, you may be surprised to see how quickly they can mangle a toothbrush or waste a whole tube of toothpaste. Participating in their dental care routine will help you prevent waste, but make sure to shop for fresh brushes, dental floss, and toothpaste regularly.

Maintain a schedule with the dentist

We love our family dentist and his friendly staff. My kids aren’t afraid to go in for regular visits, because they know that the sooner a problem is detected, the easier it is to resolve. My twins, for instance, both had small cavities because of deep indentations on the surface of their teeth. Catching these quickly prevented more extensive damage.

Even more damage was avoided through the application of sealants. The ADA says that decay in the normal pits and fissures in teeth often begins early in life, so sealants can help protect teeth even from a young age.

Celebrate healthy teeth

When your kids get a great checkup, make sure to tie the good news to all their hard work. Celebrate their efforts and let them know you are proud of them for taking good care of their teeth. Positive reinforcement can go a long way toward maintaining good dental habits.

If the exam does not go so well, let your kids know you will help them learn to take better care of their teeth so the next checkup isn’t so bad. Talk to your dentist at each visit and ask for advice on ways to improve your children’s dental health, for now and the future.