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. We'll review the top tips for proper oral health for your child and then answer common questions about oral care.
Oral Health for Kids: Easy Steps You Can Take For Their Smile
Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications
5 Tips for Better Oral Health for Kids
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:
- Teach your child how to clean their teeth at least twice a day
- Eat a well-balanced diet that limits starchy or sugary foods.
- Make sure that your child is drinking water or using dental products with the appropriate level of fluoride.
- Take your child to the dentist for regular checkups and preventive care.
- Visit the dentist right away if an injury has led to chipped, broken, or knocked-out teeth.
Next, we'll answer common questions about these tips, so you know why it's so important to help your child learn these basics.
How do I get my child excited about brushing 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 to make oral care in the morning or evening a group activity. There are plenty of songs to sing while you brush your child's teeth. You can read a 2-minute story in a funny voice or play a short story or podcast. Reward systems can help them make cleaning their teeth a habit: you can give them a sticker on a reward chart each time they clean their teeth.
Dental care for your child may feel overwhelming. Try to involve your children as much as possible so that they feel excited and empowered about keeping their teeth and gums healthy. Consider taking your children to a pediatric dentist who understands how to make dental checkups less intimidating. Pediatric dental offices often have toys, games, and movies to help children relax and enjoy going to the dentist.
When should my child begin using floss or flossers?
Cleaning between your teeth with floss, flossers, or water flossers removes food particles and plaque that brushing misses. You should begin using these tools for your children starting at age 4. By the time they reach age 8, most kids can start using these devices themselves. Check out these five simple steps to flawless flossing.
How do I Prevent Early Childhood Cavities?
A child's first visit to their dentist should occur within six months after the first tooth erupts. This can often be accomplished easily with a parent holding the baby in their lap and the dentist or dental hygienist sitting knee to knee with the parent.
The dental hygienist can quickly examine the baby's mouth for decay or abnormalities without difficulty. Additionally, parents will receive instructions on good oral habits for their child to reduce oral bacteria in the mouth. Parents will learn that 'brushing' their infants' teeth can be as easy as wiping them with a washcloth or using a toothbrush specially designed for infants.
Perhaps most importantly, parents will learn that limiting the intake of fermentable carbohydrates, especially juice and milk, is crucial. The frequency of drinking these sugary liquids correlates with cavities. The frequency and amount should be monitored, especially in bottles or cups at bedtime.
Preventing baby bottle tooth decay — also called early childhood dental caries — is one of the most important infant tooth care issues. This condition occurs when the baby falls asleep with milk, formula, or juice in their mouth. The sugars pool inside the mouth and can lead to cavities in both the top and bottom teeth.
To avoid baby bottle tooth decay, never let a child fall asleep with a bottle in their mouth and limit nursing as they sleep. If your baby needs something to suck on to fall asleep, offer a bottle filled with water or a pacifier.
Are dental sealants effective protection against cavities?
Absolutely! According to the American Dental Association (ADA), sealants have been shown to prevent dental caries — cavities — by sealing small fissures in the enamel. 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 does not contain fluoride, ask your dentist or pediatrician whether your child may benefit from a fluoride supplement.
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, serve them as part of their meal instead of as snacks alone. 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.
Consuming a balanced and nutritional diet is an essential aspect of caring for your teeth. Foods rich in calcium and protein such as dairy products and lean meats play an essential role in protecting and rebuilding your tooth enamel.
You should avoid letting your child consume large amounts of candy, soft drinks, cookies, or other sugary food and drinks that can lead to tooth decay. If your family regularly consumes sugary foods and soft drinks, start cutting back on some of these items and replacing them with healthier options, like fresh fruit and water.
What do I do if my child chips, breaks, or knocks out a tooth?
Accidents happen, but you should immediately contact your dentist when an injury has occurred to your child's mouth, such as a broken, cracked, or chipped tooth. 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 entirely out of the mouth due to 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.
Excellent dental health for kids starts with setting a good example. 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.
Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider.