Superhero Secrets for a Lifetime of Healthy Smiles!
As parents, we have hundreds of decisions to make for our children. One of them is deciding how to care for their oral health. Dental cavities are an epidemic in our youth. It is the #1 most common chronic childhood disease, and it is entirely preventable! I want to make it as easy for you as possible to learn important tips to maintain a healthy smile and prevent dental cavities in your child. Below are common tips that I recommend to my parents:
- Visit a pediatric dentist by age 1 as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and get all the knowledge on how to PREVENT dental cavities!
- Choose a soft bristled brush that is the right size for your child. Note that toothbrushes come in different sizes depending on your child’s age. The toothbrushes typically indicate the ages they are appropriate for. Use the age range as a guide. If the toothbrush appears too small or too big, don’t hesitate to use a different age range that suits your little one better.
- Strive to brush twice daily, in the morning and right before bed. Night time brushing is the most important, so make sure your child is not skipping it, even if they are really tired. After nighttime brushing, make sure your child does not eat or drink anything (besides water).
- Brush for 2 minutes each time you brush. I recommend using a timer or buying a toothbrush with a timer to ensure that the kids are not taking any short cuts.
- For children prone to cavities, I recommend fluoridated toothpaste. It’s important to find a toothpaste flavor that your child likes. Keep fluoridated toothpaste out of the reach of children. We don’t want the child eating a tube of toothpaste as it can be toxic. An adult should always place fluoridated toothpaste for their children.
- For children under 3: An adult should place a small smear of toothpaste, about the size of a grain of rice. Encourage the child to spit the toothpaste out, if they are too young to spit then you can wipe off the toothpaste with a gauze or washcloth.
- For children ages 3-6: An adult should place a pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste. If the child insists on brushing themselves, I would encourage the parent to allow the child to brush without any toothpaste on their own. Tooth brushing without toothpaste will help remove any food or sticky film of bacteria, otherwise known as plaque, that are on the teeth. Then, I would encourage parents to complete the brushing with the fluoridated toothpaste once the child is done. The fluoride will help strengthen the teeth that are prone to cavities. Then encourage the child to spit the toothpaste out.
- Adult supervision and intervention is important. It’s important to help your children brush until they have good enough dexterity to tie their own shoelaces, which typically isn’t until after the age of 6. Prior to that, it’s difficult for children to reach all the nooks and crannies that food or plaque may be hiding in in the mouth. Improper brushing can lead to bad breath, cavities, tartar build up among other oral health issues.
- Floss once nightly as soon as there are two teeth that are touching. Once teeth are touching then food and plaque can remain trapped in between the teeth and could lead to dental cavities among other oral health issues. I recommend a parent help a child floss until they can tie their own shoelaces.
For specific products and brands, the American Dental Association (ADA) has put together a simple shopping list of all ADA-Accepted products for your little treasures (including bubble gum!)