Mother and daughter  brushing teeth together

Oral Health for Kids: Easy Steps For a Great Smile

If you're not sure where to start when it comes to teaching good oral care habits to your child, don't worry! Just like any new skill, it's important to start simple and help them learn the basics. Plus, oral hygiene instructions for children are similar to your own adult oral care routine. To help your children protect their teeth and gums, and significantly reduce their risk of getting cavities, teach them to follow these steps:

  • Brush twice a day to improve oral hygiene.
  • Floss daily to remove plaque before it can harden into tartar.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet that limits starchy or sugary foods.
  • Use dental products that contain fluoride, including toothpaste.
  • Make sure that your child is drinking water with the appropriate level of fluoride.
  • Take your child to the dentist for regular checkups and professional cleanings.

 

How do I get my child excited to brush their teeth?

Dental health for kids starts with brushing up on brushing techniques. The good news? It's easy to make brushing fun for kids; all you need is a little creativity. Try reading a 2-minute story in a funny voice or giving a sticker on a reward chart. Once you've got a plan to help motivate them to brush, make sure to follow these simple steps:

  • Encourage brushing for 2 minutes twice a day, in the morning and before they go to bed.
  • Use a pea-sized dab of ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste for children ages 3-6. Take care that your child does not swallow the toothpaste.
  • Clean the outer surfaces of their upper teeth, then their lower teeth.
  • Clean the inner surfaces of their upper teeth, then their lower teeth.
  • Clean the chewing surfaces of all teeth.
  • It's always fun to brush the tongue! Plus, it keeps breath fresher with a cleaner, healthier mouth.

When should my child begin flossing?

Because flossing removes food particles and plaque between teeth that brushing misses, you should floss for your children beginning at age 4. By the time they reach age 8, most kids can start flossing for themselves. Check out these five simple steps to a flawless floss.

Are dental sealants effective protection against cavities?

Absolutely! According to the ADA, sealants have been shown to reduce the risk of decay by nearly 80% in molars. Dental sealants act as a highly-effective barrier against decay. Applying sealants is painless and can be performed in one dental visit. Ask your dentist about the benefits of sealants for your child's teeth.

What is fluoride, and is my child getting the right amount?

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral and is used in most oral care products like toothpaste to strengthen tooth enamel and prevent tooth decay. In many municipal water supplies, a safe and effective fluoride amount is added for proper tooth development. If your water supply, municipal, well, or bottled, does not contain fluoride, ask your dentist or pediatrician about whether your child may benefit from a daily fluoride supplement. Learn more about fluoride and how to make sure your child is getting the right amount.

How important is diet to my child's oral health?

A balanced diet is critical for your child to develop strong, healthy teeth. However, this doesn't mean it's time to ban their favorite snacks and treats! When they enjoy these foods, try to limit them as snacks and instead serve them as part of their meal. The extra saliva produced during meals helps rinse the acid-creating sugar and starches from the mouth. A child's diet should include a full range of vitamins and minerals, plenty of calcium, phosphorous, and proper levels of fluoride.

What should I do if my child chips, breaks, or knocks out a tooth?

Accidents happen, but with any injury to your child's mouth, such as a broken, cracked, or chipped tooth, you should contact your dentist immediately so they can determine the appropriate treatment. If possible, keep any part of the tooth that has broken off and take this with you to the dentist.

If a tooth is completely knocked out of the mouth by an injury, keep it moist and take the tooth to your dentist right away if possible. Handle the tooth as little as possible — do not wipe or otherwise clean the tooth. Store the tooth in milk, or use a tooth preservation product until you get to a dentist. It may be possible for the tooth to be placed back into your child's mouth.

Great dental health for kids starts with setting a good example. Taking care of your teeth sends a message that your children's oral health is something to be valued. Remember, anything that makes taking care of teeth fun, like brushing along with your child or letting them choose their own toothbrush, encourages proper oral care. Start teaching these habits early, so you can help set your child up with a bright, healthy smile for their whole life.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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