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Smiles at Fairfax Corner
4210 Fairfax Corner Ave W, Ste 220, Fairfax, VA 22030

A Parent’s Guide to Promoting Good Dental Health in Children

Children who learn good dental habits early in life tend to do a better job maintaining those habits as adults. Good hygiene and a healthy diet are the necessary ingredients for beautiful, strong teeth at every age. Parents who help kids establish a good routine as young children help ensure that their kids’ mouths stay healthy.

The Importance of Good Oral Health Practices in Early Childhood

Bad dental health in children often results in other development issues. For example, kids with bad teeth have issues eating, speaking, smiling, making friends, and even breathing properly. They usually develop self-esteem issues, too, and their teeth can be a source of pain and discomfort. This can lead to children losing weight, not growing appropriately, and developing sleep issues. Parents who establish oral health practices early in their children’s lives help them avoid these issues.

Common Oral Health Problems in Children

The most common oral health issue in young children is tooth decay. As many as 10% of all 2-year-olds have at least one cavity. More than one-quarter of all 3-year-olds have at least one cavity, and half of all kindergartners have had a cavity. A fifth of all elementary-aged children are at risk of losing a tooth to decay. Plaque is another issue for young children, and it’s the reason that kids develop gingivitis and gum disease. These issues can be prevented with good brushing and oral care.

Dental Care at the Infancy Stage

Bottle mouth impacts babies who drink a bottle as they go to sleep. It can lead to baby teeth decaying before they even erupt. Parents can prevent this by cleaning the mouth with a soft cloth or an infant toothbrush and not letting the child go to bed with a bottle. When the first teeth start appearing, children should be taken to the dentist. Baby teeth need brushing, and once children have two teeth touching each other, parents should start flossing their child’s teeth, too.

When Should a Child Start Learning About Their Own Dental Care?

A 3-year-old is capable of rinsing their mouth out and spitting after parents brush their teeth. Slowly start letting them help direct the brush, or let them brush their own teeth first before a parent does it again to make sure their mouth is thoroughly cleaned. By the time a child is 6, they should have the fine motor skills necessary to brush their own teeth with supervision.

Setting an Example

Kids are natural mimics and want to do what they watch their parents doing. That includes self-care actions like brushing teeth and flossing. Parents who let their kids watch as they take care of their own teeth are helping their kids get interested in oral health. It’s also important for parents to talk kids through the process. Saying things like “now that I’ve eaten breakfast, I need to go brush” helps kids understand what role dental health plays in their lives.

Teeth-Friendly Foods

Lots of foods kids love are actually really good for their teeth. Everyone has heard that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but an apple day might keep cavities away from young teeth as well: Chewing on apple slices naturally removes plaque. Tap water is also great for teeth because it usually contains fluoride, which helps keep teeth healthy and strong. Other teeth-friendly foods include eggs, dairy products without added sugars, celery, broccoli, spinach, carrots, nuts, and seeds.

Making Brushing Your Teeth Fun

Everyone is more likely to stick to habits that are enjoyable. One way to make toothbrushing fun for kids is to buy a toothbrush with their favorite character on it. There are many cute toothbrushes on the market now that are designed for young mouths. There are also kinds of toothpaste and mouthwash designed for kids that taste great but still have appropriate amounts of fluoride. Another way to make brushing fun is to have a family song that everyone sings while they brush their teeth for the recommended two minutes.

Familiarizing Children With Dentist Visits

A child’s first visit to the dentist can be scary for them. Prepare them by reading books about going to the dentist. There are many picture books about visiting the dentist that can help young kids get excited about going and understand what will happen while they are there. Additionally, many popular children’s television shows have episodes about going to the dentist. Watching these can help prepare kids and prevent undue anxiety.

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(703) 997-0928