Building a foundation for a healthy life starts in childhood. Children who develop healthy habits generally grow into adults with healthy habits. But, the fact is kids don’t really think about what’s healthy or what’s best for them. They want to do things that are fun and that keep them interested.
So, if you want your children to develop the healthy habits that will lead to healthy teeth, consider making the process – brushing their teeth and eating the right foods, for example – as enjoyable as possible.
Good Dental Health Starts in Infancy
Good dental health starts before the first tooth even makes its first appearance. Dental experts recommend taking a soft cloth and dipping it in water. Then gently rub it over your baby’s gums to keep them clean and to get him used to having a foreign object in his mouth.
Alternately, purchase a baby tooth brush and rinse water over the bristles. Then gently brush your infant’s gums. Again, whether you use a soft cloth or a toothbrush, you’re getting your child used to having her mouth cared for and you are starting to develop a healthy habit before your child is old enough to realize it.
Go to the Dentist
One of the biggest challenges many parents face is getting their child to go to the dentist and those children, who are afraid of the dentist, often grow into adults who fear going to the dentist. Getting your child to the dentist very early in life – some recommend when a child gets his first teeth or by the time he is a year old – will get him used to the dentist and help take that fear away.
Some cities also have pediatric dentist practices that make going to the dentist less stressful and even fun with games and entertainment in the waiting room and dentists and dental assistants well trained in dealing with children and their fears.
Get Ready to Brush Twice Daily
Once your child hits that milestone first birthday, he’s ready to start having his teeth - however many he may have – brushed daily and to use toothpaste for the first time. The American Dental Association recommends using only a “rice-sized” dab of toothpaste on the toothbrush for a one-year-old (a pea-sized for children two years and older).
As your child gets older and can understand the concept, teach him to spit the toothpaste out after brushing. You’re limiting the amount of toothpaste on the toothbrush in a child’s early years because he won’t understand how to spit and you don’t want him to ingest too much fluoride. Your dentist will be able to advise how much fluoride your child needs.
Limit the Pacifier
Pacifiers often calm down a fussy infant or toddler and keep parents from losing the last bit of their patience. However, there comes a time when you’re going to have to cut the cord and get rid of the pacifier, preferably by the time your child is two-years-old or three-years-old, at the latest.
Unfortunately, while pacifiers can be helpful in calming down a child, they can also cause the teeth to grow improperly if used too long.
Thumb sucking can also cause problems with the proper development of healthy teeth. Many children simply stop sucking their thumb as they grow older. However, you will want to take action, by talking with your child’s dentist or using a thumb sucking liquid deterrent on her thumb, if your child hasn’t stopped sucking her thumb by the time she is three-years-old.
Save Sugary Drinks for Meal Time
Sugary drinks – such as juice and soda – can be a great treat for kids, but they’re best saved for mealtime. Instead, give your children water with snacks and before bed. You’ll save their appetite for mealtime and limit the amount of sugar that their teeth are exposed to. Sugary foods should also be limited as too much sugar can cause damage to the teeth.
No matter how old your children are, now is the time to start preparing them for a life with healthy teeth. Baby teeth will fall out, but serious dental problems can still occur with baby teeth that cause unnecessary pain for your children and stress for you.
Sometimes the best way to get children to understand – no matter how young they are – the importance of a concept, such as caring for their teeth, is to make it relatable to them through memories, images, and stories.
The Fast Boat features the story of a speedboat whose performance is hindered through unsightly barnacles covering its outer surface. With consistent care and attention, however, the speed boat becomes more confident and better able to perform. Through this relatable story, children easily and quickly learn that keeping their teeth clean is an important part of their daily routine and will help them develop the habits necessary for a lifetime of healthy teeth.