You should start your good oral hygiene routine as soon as possible. Even without teeth, make sure to clean your child’s gum with a damp cloth after every feeding. When they get their first tooth (usually around 6-12 months), make sure to use an infant toothbrush to clean their teeth. As soon as your child has two teeth that are next to each other, make sure you start flossing their teeth as well. Just like adults, make sure your child brushes their teeth twice a day and flosses (when their teeth grow in) once a day.
Why is having a good oral hygiene routine important?
- Could lead to infection, disease, or other teeth problems
- Cavities: Cavities are bad for everyone involved. They’re caused by bacteria building up in your mouth. Sugary foods and drinks turn into acid which eats away at your teeth. Cavities are very common in children because their teeth are harder to brush. You can also transfer cavities, so if you have one, make sure not to stick anything in your mouth and then give it to your child (like cleaning a spoon with your mouth before giving it to your child to eat with)
- Your child has a higher risk of getting cavities if they:
- Have white or brown spots on their teeth
- Have ongoing special health care needs
- Don’t go to the dentists often
- Were born early or had a low birth weight
- Healthy teeth leads to confidence with self and others
- Bad habits now lead to bad habits later in life
As your child grows, change toothbrushes and toothpaste to accommodate them. Use a baby brush with softer bristles when their teeth are growing in. Get them a child toothbrush when they can start brushing their own teeth. They will need help brushing their teeth until they’re 7 or 8 years old. Make sure they brush their teeth twice a day and floss at least once a day. The floss with the handles are better suited for children. Teach your child to make sure they brush their teeth, gums, and tongue. Make sure your child knows to brush their teeth before bed and after all the eating and drinking (except water) is done.
Make sure to start with toothpaste that doesn’t have fluoride in it until they’re old enough to spit out the toothpaste. Then switch to a toothpaste with fluoride. Fluoride reduces cavities and makes teeth strong by hardening the tooth enamel. Most children get fluoride in drinking water, but too much fluoride could be harmful to your child’s health. This is why you need to get toothpaste without fluoride until your child won’t swallow it.
If anything happens to your child’s teeth (chipped, fallen out, or infection), contact your dentist immediately. Their first dentist appointment should be around your child’s first birthday. After that, make sure to go twice a year. These routine checkups are important for your child to learn at a young age so that routine will continue with them though their life.
While your child is still young, let them know how important it is to have good oral hygiene. For them to learn, try making it fun for them. Let your child pick out their own toothbrush or toothpaste. Having their favourite color or favourite fictional character on their toothbrush or toothpaste can make it fun for them. You can also use a timer or play a song to make sure your child brushes their teeth for 2 minutes. Reward your child afterwards with something healthy. When they get in the mindset of good oral hygiene, they’re going to be set for life.