Helpful Healthy Dental Habits to Introduce to Your Children

Teach Them Tricks They’ll Use For the Rest of Their Life

Did you know that even baby teeth are at risk for developing tooth decay? As parents, we have to teach our kids the importance of maintaining good oral health. Not only can it help to prevent them from developing nasty bacteria, plaque, or even gingivitis, it will help build good dental care habits that will stay with them throughout their whole life.

So when should you start implementing healthy habits? As early as possible! Oral care can begin before the first tooth even breaks the skin. Then, as soon as your child’s very first tooth grows in, you should start using a soft bristle brush to take care of their teeth. Additionally, helping to eliminate any harmful bacteria that linger in the mouth can help minimize factors that are contributing to any pain or discomfort they may feel while teething.

This is around the same time you should schedule their first dental appointment. The ADA recommends the first visit occur within six months after the first tooth becomes visible, though you should wait no later than their first birthday to do so. By the time your child reaches the age of 3, they should have a full set of 20 baby teeth! That means they should be aware and educated on the importance of everyday dental habits by then. The last thing you want is to spend time and money on treating your child for poor oral hygiene.

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Cleaning and Brushing

For the first year of their life, you can use a clean, moist washcloth or gauze pad to wipe their gums of any left over food or milk residue. When the first tooth appears, you can switch to a baby toothbrush and clean water. Dr. Acosta recommends doing so after breakfast and before bedtime, just as you would yourself.

Following their first dental visit around 1 year of age, you should begin trying to teach your children how to brush their teeth, though you should not allow them to do so until they can safely spit to prevent choking or ingestion of toothpaste. You should avoid using toothpaste with fluoride unless explicitly recommended by your dentist. Instead, use a rice-sized amount of a non-fluoride toothpaste on a soft-bristled toothbrush and begin teaching the “2 for 2” trick – brushing twice a day for two minutes. You can use fun resources to help them remember!

Once your child has reached at least 3 years of age, you can start using a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste and encouraging them to learn how to brush on their own (with proper help and supervision, of course!). Between the ages of 3 and 6 is the best time to instill these habits to help maximize their likelihood of maintaining good oral hygiene into adulthood. You can also start teaching them the basics of flossing and the importance of getting to the hard-to-reach areas between the teeth. However, you’ll likely have to help them properly floss without injury until they reach about 10 or 11 years old.

Taking Preventative Measures

In addition to teaching proper dental care habits, such as brushing and flossing, be sure to teach your kids how to protect their teeth to minimize their risk of developing tooth decay. There are also many steps you can take as their parents to help prevent harmful bacteria from developing in the mouth.

In Early Life

In the early stages of their life, babies can be exposed to lots of sugars in the milk or juice they drink. Additionally, extended use of pacifiers and bottles can also affect their mouth. To prevent issues from developing later in life, do not let your child fall asleep while:

  • Breastfeeding
  • Sucking on a bottle of formula, milk, juice, or anything other than unsweetened water
  • With a pacifier, sippy cup, or similar spout-end cup

You should also avoid letting your child suck on training cups or bottles filled with sweetened water, milk, or juice. Some parents enjoy dipping pacifiers in honey or a similar sweet substance, but this can also prove detrimental to the health of your child’s teeth. Extended exposure to sweets can cause cavities and tooth decay.

As they Age

As your child evolves to a solid diet, you should try to introduce them to healthy foods that they can enjoy well into adulthood. For example, instead of offering snacks or treats full of sugar, use sweets for special occasions and help them develop a taste of healthy snacks instead like raw fruits and veggies instead.

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Try to minimize the amount of juice they drink, as many have enamel-destroying sugars in them, even if they say 100% juice! Try offering water and milk in place of sugary drinks. You should also help them developed a disciplined eating habit by allowing them to eat at set meal times. Snacks should only be given at appropriate times between meals to help them keep a healthy appetite.

Quality Dental Care for the Whole Family

Together, you and your kids can draw up a healthy eating and drinking plan that you can adhere to as a family. Brushing your teeth and eating meals together can not only help children mimic these habits with their own families as adults, but it can also help you also lower exposure to damaging factors that can affect your dental and overall health.

Dr. Acosta offers dental health care services for every member of the family and will work closely with you and your family to detect and treat any oral issues as early as possible. As your children age, he can help you to understand how their teeth and growing in and if any additional measures should be taken to prevent problems. If you need a dedicated, quality children’s dentist in the North Palm Beach area, look no further than Acosta Dental Arts, PA.

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