Dental Hygiene Tips for Children
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. The content in this post includes my personal opinions as a mom and is not meant to diagnose, treat, or prevent any health conditions.
In recent years I have noticed a growing trend of more and more children having extensive dental work. I’m not referring to one or two cavities; I’m talking about very young children checking into children’s hospitals, being put under anesthesia, and having extensive dental work in the operating room. The other day I saw a social media post from a mom asking prayer for her little girl who was going to the hospital with a mouthful of cavities.
By no means am I judging parents whose children have had dental work. In fact, before Christmas I found out that my four-year-old has a cavity. I was devastated to say the least. The dentist tried to comfort me by mentioning I was doing better than 90 percent of the population, but I still felt horribly responsible for my child’s cavity.
At the dental check-up prior to the last visit, the dentist told me she saw a spot from the x-ray that she wanted to watch. She suggested that we buy a fluoride rinse, and the hygienist mentioned that gummy candies are one of the worst offenders for causing cavities. Oops!
I was on a mission… no more gummies and off to the store for fluoride rinse! For the next sixth months we continued teeth brushing and added the fluoride rinse to the regimen.
Despite the fact that one of my children was a real “teeth brushing fighter” early on, I have faithfully brushed my children’s teeth and tried to do the best I can in this matter. I haven’t been perfect, but I have been far from neglectful. Needless to say, I was shocked to hear that my son needed a filling in a baby tooth of all things! My brother and I never had a cavity at a young age, and my eighty-six year old granddad declares he never even brushed his teeth until he was sixteen and didn’t have any cavities!
What is Causing an Increase in Cavities?
I believe cavities are on the rise in young children largely due to all the sugar in our daily foods. We don’t sit around eating candy all day at my house, but if you read ingredient labels, sugar is in almost everything we eat. During my granddad’s childhood, kids didn’t eat sweets like they do today.
I also think parents lead such busy lifestyles that they literally forget to care for their children’s teeth until it is too late. Babies and little people must be cared for just as adults care for themselves. If parents brush their own teeth, they need to remember to brush the little people’s teeth too. Once again, I get it… sometimes it’s hard to deal with squirmy babies who don’t want their teeth brushed, but like the pediatrician told me, teeth brushing is one thing worth fighting for!
The dentist told me at our check-up that genetics can play a part in dental health as well, so despite good dental hygiene, some people just have bad teeth.
What can parents do to help their children prevent cavities? Here are seven tips for parents to promote healthy dental hygiene in their children.
Dental Hygiene Tips for Children
- Clean babies’ gums and continue brushing two times a day as teeth form.
My personal dental hygienist told me wiping babies’ mouths with a clean, damp cloth is great for removing food. I used teeth wipes before my babies had teeth, and I think they were definitely helpful. Brushing once in the morning and before bed is a good habit to instill in children. I prefer to brush my children’s teeth while they are lying down because I can get in the back of their mouths much better. My children want to brush their own teeth at their current ages, so I sometimes let them have a turn when mommy is finished.
- Provide a child-friendly fluoride rinse when children are old enough to follow the directions.
I buy disposable bathroom cups, and my son loves using his fluoride rinse in his tiny cup. And believe me, he lets me know when I forget! My second child still can’t understand she’s not supposed to swallow the rinse, so it’s not an option for her just yet.
- Floss children’s teeth.
Confession time… I am terrible about flossing; however, I am much better than I used to be! I wish I would have begun flossing my son’s teeth earlier because the dentist told me that flossing was the only thing that would have possibly prevented the type cavity that he has. I thought he had plenty of space between his teeth because most all the others are spaced far apart, but the two in the very back are super snug!
- Locate a pediatric dentist and begin regular visits at a young age.
I began taking my children to the dentist at age two. As we have progressed through the different developmental stages, some visits have been great and others not so great. I believe the pediatric dentists and hygienists are better equipped to handle children. A typical dental visit includes a cleaning by a hygienist, an oral examination of the mouth by the dentist, fluoride treatment, and x-rays at appropriate ages. Thankfully our insurance allows us to visit the dentist twice a year for routine check-ups.
- Model good habits as parents.
Young children are especially notorious for imitating their parents. Have you ever noticed that your children pick up many of your habits and even say the same phrases as you? Modeling healthy dental hygiene habits as parents will encourage children to follow suit!
- Limit sugary sweets and juice.
As I have already mentioned, gummies are no longer on my grocery list; however, it seems like someone is always giving my children candy! Sometimes mommy has to be the bad guy and say no, but I also don’t want to take everything fun away from my kids. My best advice is to look for a happy medium in this area. I have always given my children water with just a small amount of juice and have recently made an effort to encourage only plain water or milk. And guess what? My children drink the water and like it! It’s so good for them too!
- Teach children the importance of healthy dental hygiene.
Read books about healthy teeth brushing habits and visiting the dentist. This will help your children realize that dental health can be a fun part of daily life. It’s much better than going to the operating room for cavities! Also, parents can take their children along to their own dental visits and allow them to watch. This practice shows children exactly what happens at the dentist office, and teaches them that the dentist isn’t a scary monster after all!
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, and it’s never too late to begin practicing healthy dental hygiene habits. A sign in my childhood dentist office stated, “Brush the teeth you want to keep,” and what a true statement! Happy brushing!
Kristin Dunn is a mommy by day and a blogger at Peppermints and Cherries by night. She has a B.S. and M. Ed. in Elementary Education and has teaching experience in both the traditional classroom and as a distance learning instructor. She currently teaches piano and voice lessons in her home studio. When she’s not teaching or blogging, she’s often trying a new recipe, organizing a closet, or entertaining her two little munchkins.