February is the National Children’s Dental Health Month, and the American Dental Association has declared this year’s slogan “Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste and clean between your teeth for a healthy smile.”
Instilling excellent oral hygiene habits at a young age is critical for maintaining the health of teeth and gums during childhood and beyond. This is the time when good practices are learned and cemented.
At Uptown Dental Associates, we will be your partner in your and your family’s dental health. Read on to learn more about how to take care of your child’s smile at home — and even make it enjoyable for both of you. Then call our Albuquerque, NM office at 505-407-8781 to get your next checkups on the calendar.
Make Brushing and Flossing Routine
The earlier you start an oral health routine, the better. You can even begin before baby has any visible teeth by wiping the gums with a damp washcloth. This cleans away bacteria and gets baby acclimated to taking care of his or her mouth. Once the first tooth erupts, you should begin brushing with a soft baby toothbrush. For children under the age of three, use a tiny (rice-grain sized) smear of fluoride toothpaste. For kids 3 and older, use a pea-sized dab of fluoride toothpaste. Be vigilant and make sure kids don’t swallow the toothpaste.
Like adults, children should brush their teeth twice per day and floss daily. Parents should help until they are certain the child can do a thorough job on his or her own. We understand that today’s families are busy and mornings can be rushed, but don’t let oral hygiene fall through the cracks.
We know that it’s not always easy brushing a young child’s teeth, but here are some tips to help it go a little more smoothly.
- Let your child pick out his or her toothbrush. A little bit of control goes a long way.
- Keep in mind there is a huge variety of toothpaste flavors and brands. It may take a little experimentation to find one that appeals to your child.
- Let your child “brush” a doll or stuffed animal’s teeth.
- Music turns any activity into a party. The ADA has even compiled a fun toothbrushing playlist.
- Use a sticker chart or other incentive to motivate a reluctant child.
Instill Good Eating Habits
What you eat has an enormous impact on your overall health, so it makes sense that it does on the state of your teeth and gums as well. Store shelves are stocked with foods and drinks that will wreak havoc on anyone’s teeth. Here are a few guidelines for feeding your family in a way that won’t damage their oral health.
- Encourage your kids to drink white milk or water exclusively. Soft drinks, juices, and sports drinks coat their teeth in sugar, which promotes the production of harmful bacteria. Water (preferably fluoride-fortified tap) should be sipped throughout the day. This helps keep mouths clean and free of food particles.
- Avoid purchasing anything sweet and sticky. Chewy granola bars, gummy fruit snacks and rollups, and even dried fruit like raisins get lodged in the grooves of the teeth and encourage bacterial growth.
- Discourage frequent snacking. Continuous grazing throughout the day causes a destructive film of bacteria to form on the teeth. If you do give a snack, make it a tooth-healthy option like a cheese stick, nuts, or an apple.
- Be aware of what you are feeding your family. Yogurt is a wonderful tooth-friendly food — but maybe not so much if it’s packed with sugar. Be sure to read labels so you know what you’re really buying.
Be a Regular at the Dentist’s Office
At Uptown Dental Associates, we see kids as young as 3 years old. It’s important to bring your children in for regular checkups for many reasons. The CDC says that more than 40% of kids have some degree of tooth decay by the time they start kindergarten. Put another way, it is the most common chronic disease in children.
Early dental visits acclimate kids to the experience, so it becomes routine to them and not something to fear. We will give your child’s teeth a thorough cleaning, pinpoint early signs of decay, and take low-radiation digital X-rays to find hidden issues. Our team knows how to engage with kids and put them at ease. And we “sweeten” the visit with fresh-baked cookies.