Good habits start young. As children are easily influenced by their surroundings, parents must inculcate good and healthy habits from an early age. The earlier healthy habits are introduced to them, the more likely it will carry over into adulthood. A child that enjoys brushing his teeth and dental visits is likely to continue in the future.
Last Wednesday, our Nuffield Dental Oral Health Therapist, Joseph, shared tips on dental care for kids during a Facebook Live session. Here’s a recap of the tips that he had shared in case you missed it:
Babies/Infants (0-3 Years)
Although babies do not grow baby teeth until they are six months old, it is important to get your baby used to dental care from the very beginning. You should aim for your baby to tolerate oral sensations of something in the mouth and tongue movements.
Here are a few tips on how you can gently introduce tooth brushing to your baby:
- Provide opportunities for your baby to mouth safe toys or objects such as teethers or small spoons. These help to build your baby’s awareness of sensations in his mouth.
- Use an adult fingertip toothbrush made of silicon or rubber or a wet cloth to provide gentle pressure on the gums, tips and tongue. That will help your baby get accustomed to oral sensations.
- Toothpaste is not necessary at this stage as babies are unable to spit.
- Allow your baby to play with a child-friendly toothbrush. That enables exploration of his mouth and the sensation that comes with brushing his teeth.
Toddlers & Pre-Schoolers (3-6 Years)
Dental care during this phase is vital for your child’s general health. Your child must start cleaning their teeth twice a day. You should aim for your child to begin brushing parts of their teeth themselves, and you should assist them in more thorough tooth brushing and flossing.
Here are a few tips on how you can teach your child proper brushing habits:
- Use a soft bristle, age-appropriate toothbrush, and a small amount of fluoride toothpaste (rice grain size for under three years and pea-size for 3-6 years). It is crucial to refrain from using too much toothpaste as it may increase the risk of splotchy or streaky teeth when older.
- Allow your child to play with his toothbrush and attempt some tooth brushing independently.
- Encourage your child to brush his teeth by role-playing on a doll or teddy.
- Allow your child to choose novelty toothbrushes (with your child’s favourite cartoon characters or ones that light up). That will make him more willing to brush his teeth and make them feel good about practising good oral care.
- Lead by example and demonstrate that you are brushing your teeth as well (and that you care about your oral health).
- Encourage your child to read books and sing songs about tooth brushing.
- Provide a mirror so that your child can see his mouth during brushing.
- Practise spitting out small amounts of water.
School-Aged Children (6-12 Years)
From 6-12 years, children begin to lose their baby teeth and have a mix of baby and adult teeth. As adult teeth do not get replaced, it is vital to upkeep good oral hygiene to prevent potential gum diseases and tooth decay. During this phase of life, you should aim for your child to brush and floss his teeth independently.
Here are a few tips on how to encourage your child to brush his teeth independently:
- Explain the importance of maintaining good dental hygiene and the types of food to avoid to prevent tooth decay.
- Check with your child’s dental centre for the correct techniques for brushing and flossing.
- At this stage of development, your child may have outgrown his novel toothbrush. An electric toothbrush may be a great alternative to motivating older children.
- Tooth brushing for 2 minutes, twice a day is a great way to maintain your child’s oral health. Use a timer to encourage a full 2 minutes of brushing.
- Use a small tube of toothpaste to practise squeezing an adequate amount of toothpaste (pea-size).
- Use a hygiene routine checklist to mark off each aspect of the tooth brushing activity.
- Use rewards such as healthy snacks or a visit to the park to encourage your child to brush daily.
Dental flossing should begin as soon as baby teeth have erupted, typically between 2-6 years. When at least two teeth come in contact with one another, food particles can get trapped between the teeth during meals.
Although tooth brushing for 2 minutes is an excellent way to maintain dental hygiene, tooth brushing is not entirely sufficient to get rid of food trapped between teeth. As children under the age of 7 have yet to develop their fine motor skills, a caregiver should help perform dental flossing on the child’s teeth.
While toothbrushing and dental flossing are important steps of your child’s hygiene routine, it is important to not miss out on tongue scraping as well. Tongue scraping is essential to remove the coat of bacteria called Biofilm on your child’s tongue and to freshen his breath.
Here are steps on how to clean your child’s tongue:
- You can use either a toothbrush or tongue scraper to clean his tongue. Use a tongue scraper for more effectiveness.
- Position your toothbrush or tongue scraper at the back of your tongue.
- Brush lightly forward and backwards along your tongue.
As there has been an increase in the number of early tooth decay in kids, it is essential to foster good dental habits from young to ensure your child carries them into adulthood. Consistency is key. It is important to emphasize that tooth brushing is not an option, but rather something that we all need to do daily.
At Nuffield Dental, we are dedicated to providing a comfortable and safe environment for all our patients, especially children. Do not hesitate to visit your Nuffield Dental dentist or Oral Health Therapist if you require further guidance on how to care for your child’s teeth.
We look forward to having you and your little one in our dental clinic.