Most parents have no idea that dental care should begin as soon as your baby’s first tooth appears, or that kiddos aren’t developed enough to do a good job brushing and flossing until after they are 7 or 8. Some don’t realize that it is important to brush at an angle to get any plaque that builds up under the gums or know that plaque hardens in about a day. We have discussed these issues and various ways to care for your child’s teeth before, but here is a handy overview of the basics, all in one place.
The Basics of Oral Care for Children
The most important and basic oral care is proper and regular teeth-brushing. As soon as your child’s first baby tooth appears, you should begin brushing their tooth twice a day, which establishes it as a routine and as something important in their mind. Caring for baby teeth is important because your child’s primary teeth are the placeholders of his or her adult teeth. Failure to care for them leads to cavities in baby teeth, which makes it far more likely that your child will have dental issues in the future, such as tooth decay in adult teeth and gingivitis.
In order to keep your child’s teeth healthy, it is important to assist them in brushing their teeth twice every single day until they are 6 or 7 years old. This is a non-negotiable rule that every parent and child should follow. (Remember, kids are much more likely to follow your example, so it is helpful if they see you caring for your teeth.) Ideally, their teeth should be brushed in the morning and before they go to bed. The latter is quite important since failing to brush your kids’ teeth before they sleep allows those harmful bacteria to develop in their mouth the entire night, thus damaging tooth enamel. If this is not addressed, it would eventually lead to the formation of cavities in your children’s teeth, and even gingivitis.
Perhaps just as importantly, it is necessary to train your child to brush their teeth well, and it may take a while. Even once they can do an excellent job on their own, it is best to make it a habit to supervise your kids in brushing their teeth until they reach the age of 8. This is to make sure they are properly guided on the whole teeth-brushing routine and that they are not skipping it even for a day.
Here are a few basics to get you started:
Let your little one face the mirror as you gently brush his or her teeth using a soft-bristled toothbrush. You need to position the toothbrush against your kid’s teeth at a 45-degree angle to the gum line. Carefully move the brush across your child’s teeth and along the gum line using a small circular motion and brush until every surface is clean. Don’t forget that electric toothbrushes will do a far better job cleaning than most people could hope to do with a manual toothbrush. In case you need more tips, here is a comprehensive guide to teaching your kid to brush their teeth.
If your kid is quite resistant to teeth-brushing, here are some powerful tips you can apply for a seamless dental hygiene routine.
Adequate Knowledge About Fluoride
Aside from knowing how often your child should brush his or her teeth, it is important to be knowledgeable about fluoride use, as well. Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that makes our tooth enamel more resistant to acid attacks, therefore preventing dental cavities in both children and adults. While this mineral is proven to be advantageous for dental health, excessive amounts of it can pose a danger.
Consequently, it is recommended that children below 3 should only use a rice-sized dab of fluoride-free toothpaste. Once they are ready, kids 3-6 years old may use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste with fluoride. Most importantly, your child needs to be good at spitting out the toothpaste before beginning to use fluoride. If they clearly swallow most of it, we recommend using only non-fluoridated toothpaste with Xylitol. These recommendations help your child stay well below the amount that can begin to cause harm. (We broke down the numbers of how much a child is usually exposed to through proper amounts of toothpaste, and compared it to recommended quantities in this article. You can check it out if you are concerned about the safety of fluoride.)
You may have heard that brushing alone is not enough. That is 100% right. The moment your child develops two teeth right next to each other, then that is your cue to start flossing his or her teeth once a day. Effective flossing materials range from traditional dental flosses, water flossers, and floss picks. While water flossers are quite trendy nowadays and are found to be convenient for those who are wearing dental braces, they will not clean between teeth well enough for everyday use. Floss picks are still the most ideal choice for young children as they are easy to use and help reach the back of your kid’s mouth with less movement.
It is ideal to floss your child’s teeth before brushing them — not the other way around. Doing so allows you to remove the plaque, bacteria, and food particles in between your kid’s teeth, then easily remove them once you brush his or her teeth. Be sure to gently floss all the way to the gum line. Always use fresh floss or a new floss pick each day and never try to recycle the used ones, as that would lead to a build-up of bacteria in your child’s mouth.
Finally, you should gently floss your child’s teeth until they learn to do it on their own. (Children around the age of 8 may have the ability to floss by themselves.) As with brushing, be sure to take as much time as necessary to teach them the correct way to floss - and supervise until they are consistently doing it correctly. In that way, you’re assured that this routine is being done properly and that they are not injuring their gums in the process.
Proper Usage of Mouthwash
Mouthwash may be an important addition to your child’s dental hygiene but should never replace brushing and flossing. Although mouthwashes serve plenty of purposes such as freshening breath and preventing tooth decay and gingivitis, it is not advisable for kids under 6 years old to use them without a dentist’s guidance. This is because most kids under 6 find it difficult to swish and spit the mouthwash out, hence posing risks of swallowing and ingesting it. Depending on the substance concentration and the ingredients used, swallowing a portion of mouthwash might lead your child to suffer from nausea, an upset stomach, and other health issues.
Meanwhile, children 6-12 years old can safely use mouthwashes for 30 seconds BUT it still requires adult supervision. Different mouthwashes have different usage instructions, so it is highly suggested that parents should be present whenever their children start swishing and gargling with their dentist-recommended mouthwash.
Healthy Food Options and a Balanced Diet
Your child’s food options and eating habits create a huge impact on their overall dental health. Numerous parents are well aware that excess sugar causes gingivitis and oral cavities. However, what they may not know is that unhealthy sugars do not reside in “sweet food” alone — they can be found in everyday snacks which contain a great amount of hidden added sugar even though they don’t taste sweet at all.
To prevent this scenario from damaging your child’s teeth and eventually causing them to suffer from gingivitis, it is good to be aware of what ingredients are in your child’s food and provide healthy food options for your children. A diet rich in fruits, veggies, healthy fats and proteins, omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, and antioxidants - with minimal processed carbohydrates and sugars is perfect for your little one’s oral health!
If you’re not confident in this area, you can always contact an expert in nutrition, so that someone reliable can teach and guide you on what to allow your children to eat and what to avoid.
We’re Here to Assist You Every Step of the Way!
Here at Jungle Roots, we firmly believe that proper patient education paves the way for a healthier set of teeth among children. This is what we do best - communicating with both parents and children and guiding them every step of the way on how to achieve optimal dental health. With our comprehensive pediatric and orthodontic care, you’re assured of a fun, safe, dependable, and vibrant dental home for your little one.
We also believe that prevention is always better than treatment, so we focus our efforts on providing preventive services and early intervention to avoid complex dental issues in the future. These services include patient education, consistent dental exams and cleanings, and digital X-rays to monitor oral development and tooth eruption.
We hope this handy guide is useful. Feel free to pass it on to any parents you know that could find this information helpful! If you have any questions or concerns relating to your child’s oral health, please feel free to reach out to us. Our caring dental team is always eager to help you!
At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry & Orthodontics, we strive to provide the highest comprehensive pediatric and orthodontic dental care in a unique, fun-filled environment staffed by a team of caring, energetic professionals. We believe the establishment of a “dental home” at an early age is the key to a lifetime of positive visits to the dentist.