dental hygiene for kids

How to Help Your Children Develop Good Dental Health Habits

In Children's Dentistry by Olivia Deputy

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Since February is Children’s Dental Health Month, we’d like to shed some light on how parents can help their children foster good oral hygiene early in life. By assisting your children in developing good habits with their baby teeth, they are more likely to take good care of their adult teeth. In this article, we’ll answer a few of the common questions we receive from parents about dental hygiene for kids.

What can parents do to help kids build good brushing habits?

The best thing parents can do to start their child off with good dental habits is to help them learn to brush once their teeth begin emerging. This means brushing their teeth for them until they reach an age that they are able to do a thorough job by themselves.

Children should get in the habit of brushing twice a day with parental supervision and help until around the age of five.

Many parents struggle with toddlers that are unwilling participants when parents try to brush their teeth for them. A good strategy is to let them brush first while you watch, then do a second round where you brush for them. This lets them start taking responsibility for their teeth while still ensuring a clean mouth. Make the brushing process even more fun for your child by letting them pick out a toothbrush with their favorite character on it. Everything is more enjoyable with Olaf or Lightning McQueen!

Should my child be flossing?

Dr. James at Hidden Valley Dentistry recommends getting started with flossers, like flossaid or floss holders, early on. Flossing helps remove food that is lodged between teeth before it begins to break down and increase the risk of enamel damage. Children who have learned about flossing early are more likely to have good habits later. Working with floss early also helps make flossing at their dental appointments less intimidating.

Flossing once a day is ideal, preferably at night. For very young children, flossing a few times a week is a good way to start building an important habit.

What kind of toothpaste should my toddler be using?

Children under the age of five should stick to fluoride-free, child-friendly toothpaste since they are more likely to swallow toothpaste than an older child. Using varieties in fun flavors like bubblegum or grape can help make brushing a more pleasant experience for young kids and reduce some of the struggles with teaching good brushing habits. While very high doses of fluoride can have negative effects, low levels like those found in drinking water are normal and necessary for healthy tooth development. Unless your child is swallowing large amounts of fluoridated toothpaste regularly, they are not at risk.

Should I let my child have a bottle after brushing?

Ideally, children should only have water after brushing at night. When kids (and adults!) eat or drink after brushing, they are reintroducing sugars into the mouth. Overnight there is less tongue movement and salvia flow in the mouth to move sugars around, so they are more likely to end up as food for bacteria in the mouth. When these bacteria digest sugar they produce a mild acid that wears down tooth enamel and can lead to cavities and decay. So let them have their bottle before bed, but make sure you brush their teeth after they finish drinking and before you say goodnight.

When should my child start visiting the dentist?

As a general rule of thumb, it is recommended that children visit a pediatric dentist for an initial checkup either three months after their first tooth emerges or by their first birthday. This visit can help to catch any potential issues early on. Depending on your child’s unique needs, regular visits may or may not be necessary for the first few years.

Many children are ready to start visiting an adult dentist by the age of five when they can understand what is going on and can sit patiently with their mouth open for their examination. At this point, yearly checkups help catch issues early so children grow up with healthy teeth.

Remember, good dental hygiene for kids begins with their parents!

Hidden Valley Dentistry is committed to providing excellent dental care to the Roanoke, VA area. Dr. James and Dr. Dereyle have over 50 years of combined dental experience, and our practice has been well-respected throughout the community for decades. Each member of our kind and welcoming staff strives to continue making our community smile even brighter! Schedule a dental appointment with us, and we’ll bring your smile to life.

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