In addition to taking good care of our own teeth, as parents and caregivers we need to cultivate good habits in our children for their long-term dental health.
Healthy children's teeth start with healthy habits for kids.
Our dentists and hygienists often field questions like, “when should I start brushing my baby’s teeth,” “when do I introduce fluoride,” and “at what age can I expect my child to floss by themselves?”
All good questions, which we’ll be addressing in this article. While we’re at it, we’ll take a look at best practices for both brushing and flossing to ensure kids’ dental health — as well as strategies and advice to help mom and dad teach their kids good habits.
One key tip to remember is that kids should first see a dentist within six months of the eruption of their first tooth, according to the American Dental Association. You can schedule your child's appointment right online here.
Brushing Kids’ Teeth
When it comes to brushing, there are some basics we want to make sure everybody is aware of. Brushing two times per day is ideal for kids. Brushing teeth more, say after eating a snack, is also OK. The act of brushing breaks down plaque and removes excess sugar from the mouth.
For many families, brushing at night has become part of their routine, but it’s also important for kids to brush in the morning — preferably after breakfast.
This is something that’s not always easy when you’re working with children. If your kids are in grammar school, you know how challenging breakfast, getting dressed, prepping cold lunch — and fielding complaints about having to go to school — can be. In other words, it can be hard to consistently have the kids brush every morning. This is true even for many of our kids — and we work at First Choice Dental!
A practical solution to help kids become more consistent in their teeth brushing habits is to talk with them about it. We don’t recommend this when the kids are getting ready for school — there’s too much going on to be talking about dental health at 7:30am. But you can talk about it when you’re brushing at night. Never use scare tactics to make the kids brush more, just tell them the truth about how their oral health will be better if they take care of their teeth, and how it could suffer if they don’t.
What we’re working on during these discussions is instilling healthy dental habits. Research has shown that it can take up to 21 consecutive days in a row for a new habit to become solidified. But don’t dismay! If your child misses a day, all is not lost. Just get them back on track the next day, and be sure to thank them for brushing — a little positive feedback never hurts!
When to Introduce Fluoride
Our dentists have had many conversations with parents about the fear associated with introducing fluoride at too young of an age. And with good reason. If too much fluoride is ingested, it can cause stomach ailments, tooth discoloration and skin rashes.
So what’s a dad or mom to do? Talk with your dentist. If he or she is a First Choice dentist, they’re sure to be dental geeks, at the ready to help keep your child’s oral and overall health intact. In other words, they’re glad to offer expert advice. As a benchmark, the American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics both suggest using a grain-of-rice sized amount of fluoride toothpaste with baby’s first tooth. As kids enter the toddler years, a pea-sized about of fluoride toothpaste can be used, along with “rinsing” as best as possible.
How Long Should Kids Brush?
Just as long as adults should, which is about two minutes. Talk with your kids about getting all of their teeth, including their back molars. Lead by example and show them what you mean about brushing the front and back of their mouth, and all sides of their teeth, by brushing with them and answering any questions they may have. While they’re brushing, make sure they’re not biting on the toothbrush or brushing too hard, which can damage gums.
Check for Plaque & Food Deposits
This might be the most fun step of all — getting a good close look at your kid’s teeth! Once they’re done brushing, be sure to check their work and let them know if (and where) you see any plaque or food. Have them look in the mirror and spot it themselves before they brush again. Once they get accustomed to knowing where to look for plaque or food deposits, you can hand over the responsibility to them to check their own teeth. This is a great way to give your kids a boost of self-confidence by letting you know you trust them.
Flossing Kids’ Teeth
Before you say it, we know that most people don’t like to floss. And yet it’s so important in keeping you from developing cavities between teeth. Teaching kids to floss daily is a healthy habit that’s just as important as brushing teeth. When kids are young, show them how you floss, and then floss for them. Before you start, give them a heads up as to where you’ll be starting to floss and where you’ll be ending. It’s also important to give kids a “pain” signal, in case they’re hurting when you floss their teeth.
We recommend starting to floss your child’s teeth as soon as they have two teeth sitting next to each other.
When Should Children Begin Flossing Themselves?
In many cases, kids can start flossing on their own by somewhere between ages 6 and 10. In essence, once you think your child has the coordination to do so, have them give flossing a try! Be sure to use floss that is soft and flexible so it’s easy for your son or daughter to handle — and so it doesn’t hurt them!
How Can I Help My Child Learn To Floss?
Showing your kids how to hold the floss, and working with them to get comfortable putting their hands in their mouth is a great start. It’s also important to let them know if the floss gets too tight around their fingers, it’s OK to ask for help adjusting. Making sure there is no pain associated with flossing will make it easier to accomplish on a regular basis.
Other tips include teaching kids not to snap the floss down on their their gums too hard, as well as the “C” curve, which is when you give your tooth a little hug by curving the floss around it during the up and down motion of flossing. Initially, gums may bleed when a child first starts flossing. This should clear up after a few days of flossing consistently. If bleeding persists, we recommend consulting your First Choice dentist.
Speaking of visiting the dentist, even if there are no signs of any problems, it’s important for your child to visit the dentist regularly to check the overall health of their teeth, and to have any remaining plaque or buildup removed.
Thank you for visiting First Choice Dental. We hope these flossing and brushing tips help! Remember, kids should first see a dentist within six months of the eruption of their first tooth, according to the American Dental Association. You can schedule your child's appointment right online here.