Young children are not able to clean their own teeth so as a parent you have a big role to play. Even before teeth appear, you should be taking care of your child’s oral health. Tooth decay is largely preventable when following a good oral health routine but it still one of the most common diseases of children aged six to nineteen years of age. Help protect and care for your child’s teeth with the following tips.

Brushing your child’s teeth

It is a parent’s responsibility to clean their child’s teeth while they are very young. You should start brushing your children’s teeth as soon as they appear. Even before they do, it is good practice to clean your baby’s gums with a clean, wet and soft washcloth. Teeth come from healthy gums and it is also a good way to get into the habit of looking after their oral health.

Teeth will start to break through at six months of age. It is recommended that your child’s first dentist visit to be within six months of their first tooth coming through or before their first birthday. Ask your family dentist for more advice on flossing and brushing for very young children. Fluoride toothpaste should be used to brush teeth if your dentist has advised that your child is considered to be at risk of developing tooth decay. Otherwise, a toothbrush moistened with water is the recommended method for children under the age of three.

Brush your child’s teeth gently, making sure not to scrub or brush too hard. Applying too much pressure can hurt the gums and tooth enamel. Clean every surface of the teeth, brushing in circles and making sure not to miss the back teeth, where cavities often first develop. Flossing is advised for children too, as soon as two teeth touch each other.

Supervised tooth brushing

Around three years of age, children can be supervised to brush their own teeth for two minutes a minimum of twice a day. Once of these brushings should take place before bedtime. Only a small amount of fluoride toothpaste should be used, a portion about the size of a green pea. Until good habits are established, it is important to continue supervising your children’s tooth brushing.

To make tooth brushing more fun, consider making it into a game, with sticker rewards. Another good idea is to brush at the same time, to set a good example. Let your child pick out a new toothbrush and/or toothpaste from a selection approved by you. Some parents claim their children are more excited to brush their teeth with an electric toothbrush; studies have suggested that this kind of brushing can be more effective than with a regular toothbrush.

The effect of nutrition on oral health

It is never too early to consider the effect of bad nutrition and eating/drinking habits on your child’s oral health. Try to avoid giving your child sugary snacks and drinks as they feed bacteria, which causes tooth decay. Foods high in sugar should only be consumed during meals if at all, as the acids created by the sugar will break down easier.

It is often forgotten that both cow’s milk and mother’s milk (in addition to formula) contain sugars; children should not consume these before going to sleep as the liquid will cling to their teeth and may cause cavities. Juice is also not a good idea, despite its healthy image. Fresh fruit is a better alternative, even better when consumed alongside water, considered a natural mouthwash for teeth. Keep good snacks handy, such as carrot sticks, celery and cheese.

If you have a positive attitude about dental health and practice good habits yourself, it will set a great example to your child. As soon as your child has teeth they are at risk for tooth decay, so it is important to start early. Supervise your child’s tooth brushing until you are confident they are able and motivated to brush for two minutes at least twice a day to prevent tooth decay. For more advice and tips to maintain and improve your child’s oral health, speak to your family dentist.

For more information visit Canmore Dentist