Putting your Kids on the Path to Good Oral Health
According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), tooth decay is one of the most common chronic childhood diseases — 5 times more common than asthma and 7 times more common than hay fever. DHHS also found that students lose more than 51 million school hours every year because of illnesses related to dental problems.1
These statistics alone clearly demonstrate the importance of oral health during childhood. Teaching children good oral care and scheduling regular dental visits helps children establish good habits. The earlier these habits are formed, the stronger the foundation laid for a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.
Here are some helpful tips to get your children on the right path and help keep them there:
During infancy, wipe your baby’s gums with a gauze pad or wash cloth, especially after feedings and before bedtime, to keep their gums clean and healthy. This will also help your child be more receptive to oral care as he/she grows.
The First Dental Visit
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends a child’s first dental appointment be scheduled within six months of when the first tooth appears, but no later than the child’s first birthday. Getting an early start on regular dental visits will also get your child comfortable with the dentist.
When the teeth begin to come in, you can start brushing them with a child-sized toothbrush and water. After two years of age, children’s teeth should be brushed twice a day for at least two minutes each time using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Parents should assist with this task until kids are about six years old. Some parents may need to supervise brushing up to age twelve to ensure thoroughness.
The right time to start flossing is when any two teeth are touching. Typically, the back teeth begin touching before the front. This can be hard to reach for parents flossing their children’s teeth, and floss picks are a great tool for this. Floss picks are also easier for little fingers to manage, plus they come in fun shapes and cartoon characters.
When to Swish
Once a child reaches six years old, it’s safe for them to start using children’s mouthwash. Be sure to supervise your child and only let them use mouthwash specifically designed and labeled for children’s use. Children’s mouthwash does not contain alcohol, is less harmful if swallowed, and also comes in flavors kids like.
Never put a child to bed with milk, juice or any other sweetened beverage. This will cause sugar to stay on your child’s teeth overnight and can cause tooth decay. Water is always the best option for a bedtime drink.
If your child is resistant to brushing, try eye-catching toothbrushes. Children often enjoy brushing with their favorite cartoon characters and find light-up and electric toothbrushes lots of fun. The electric and light-up toothbrushes also come complete with a helpful two-minute timer. You can also try incorporating a fun brushing chart and reward your child for staying on track. Don’t forget, reading to your children about oral health will reinforce good brushing habits.
Each February, the American Dental Association sponsors National Children’s Dental Health Month to raise awareness about the importance of oral health. To find more helpful tips on children’s oral care and for fun resources like brushing charts, stories, coloring pages, and more visit the American Dental Association at www.ada.org.
1. US DHHS. Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, National Institute of Health, 2000.