Teaching Children to Take Care of Their Baby Teeth
From an early age, you teach your baby how to eat, speak, walk and do everything on their own. This process can take years. Parents who teach their children oral hygiene basics while they are young have a better chance of their children having good oral health for life. Find out what your child should be doing for their oral health at different ages and how you can teach them those skills!
Are the Baby Teeth Important?
The baby teeth are only around for a few short years. However, those years with the baby teeth are very telling of the rest of the years with your oral health. Infants will get their baby teeth starting anywhere between 3 months and 3 years. An infant will get 20 teeth in their mouth that will be small to fit their size and needs. Baby teeth won’t work for an adult, who needs to have the ability to bite and chew food with stronger, larger teeth.
That is why there are two sets of teeth. The baby teeth will start to space out as a child grows, which makes room in the mouth for adult, permanent teeth to eventually come in. When a baby tooth falls out, the permanent tooth will fall into place. The baby teeth must be taken care of throughout childhood or tooth decay can make those teeth fall out too soon. That would cause the permanent teeth come in too early and possibly in the wrong place in the mouth. This can make other teeth come in wrong, creating many dental problems as a child grows. When proper oral hygiene is followed each day from the time a child gets their first tooth, they can avoid many childhood and adulthood dental problems.
Tips to Get Your Kids to Brush and Floss
As soon as your child can hold a toothbrush, have them start their brushing and flossing. That’s even when they are a baby and can grasp objects. When your infant only has one or a few teeth, try brushing their teeth and gums with a baby gum brush. Add the smallest amount of fluoride toothpaste for kids to the brush. Let them grasp the toothbrush and mimic your actions. Even if they wiggle lots, take turns with them trying to brush and you trying to brush their teeth, even if you both need to hold a toothbrush.
When children get older and more independent as toddlers, they may fight back with brushing and flossing if they don’t know why it’s important. Teach them why you keep your teeth clean to avoid cavities and tooth loss. Brush alongside them and have them mimic your actions, which can even turn into a game of “do as I’m doing”. You can also try:
- Turning on a song or short video for 2 minutes, during which they have to brush their teeth really well.
- Make a brushing chart where they earn stars for every time they brush and floss their teeth well. Make a goal with those stars that they get a small prize when they hit a certain number, or they get extra privileges such as more reading time with you at night.
- Tell a story to them when they brush their teeth.
- Let your child practice on you. If you show them how to brush their teeth and they can see how to do it on you, it can make them more excited to brush their own teeth.
- Let them choose their toothbrushing products, which can help them have a greater desire to brush and floss more.
- Explain what they are doing and why. Children often ask “why?” if you ask them to do something and are more willing to do it if they know there is a reason.
Teach By Example
Sometimes, the best way to teach is by example. If you want your children to take care of their baby teeth, show them it’s important by taking care of your own teeth! Brush your teeth every day, several times a day, where they can see you. Brush alongside them and take them to your own dental appointments if your child is stubborn with their oral health.
The American Dental Association has some great guidelines for taking care of baby teeth and adult teeth, and they work pretty well:
- Brush your teeth every day, at least twice a day. When brushing, make sure you brush for two minutes at a time with toothpaste. Brush in all different directions. Cover all tooth surfaces with your brushing.
- Floss 1-2 times each day. Use new floss each time to reduce bacteria transfer from one day to the next and one area of the mouth to the next. Make sure to floss up into your gum line, scraping your teeth as you go to remove built-up plaque.
- Use fluoride products. Fluoride is found in toothpastes, gels, mouthwash and public water sources. This mineral can strengthen your teeth and protect against decay.
Teaching Is a Great Start
Sometimes, kids simply don’t want to brush or floss their teeth. However, it’s still important to make the effort to try to teach them. Even if they don’t want to take care of their baby teeth for quite some time, eventually it will click that their oral health care is important. No matter what works for your family, keep trying until your child at least knows that their baby teeth are important and need care. Remind them by your good example and by helping them each day to take care of their mouth. If you need to schedule your child’s dental exam or want help for what dental products to use, call Dr. Ania’s office today at (303) 872-9940!