How to get your child started on the right path to good oral hygiene.
Long before they take their first steps and possibly before they utter their first words, babies will develop their first couple of teeth. Typically, it’s the lower front teeth or central incisors that show up first, and when they do, it’s time to start caring for them.
Though baby teeth will eventually fall out, decayed baby teeth can lead to poor speech development, negatively impact a child’s ability to digest his or her food and cause the permanent teeth to come in crooked.
That’s why it’s important for parents to begin caring for their child’s teeth as soon as they show up. It’s also important to note that caring for a baby’s teeth is a little different than caring for an older child’s teeth.
For those first few baby teeth, it’s best for parents to clean them as well as the front of the tongue using a damp washcloth or pediatrician-approved finger brush dotted with what amounts to a grain of rice worth of cavity-preventing fluoride toothpaste.
Cleaning a baby’s gums with either the toothpaste-dotted wash cloth or the finger brush is also recommended as this helps to fight bacterial growth long before the permanent teeth show up.
One thing to keep in mind when using a finger brush is to throw out the brush after a month or so and start using a new one as the brush tends to become a breeding ground for bacteria that can eventually damage the teeth and gums.
As baby’s grow into toddlers they tend to want to try brushing their teeth themselves, but parents should always monitor their toddler’s brushing habits and perhaps even finish the job for them to ensure the cleaning is thorough.
Of course, parents will eventually find that one of the more difficult tasks they’ll take on is to get their children to brush their teeth regularly. There are a couple of tips parents can follow to make sure tooth-brushing is not perceived as a chore.
For starters, let children pick out their own toothbrush. A toothbrush with a favorite character or color will help make the job of tooth-brushing seem more fun to the child. So too will brushing together with other family members.
Select a specific time, such as right before bed, and have the entire family brush its teeth together. That will allow the child to see the job of tooth-brushing as a family activity during which the child can learn good habits by watching mommy and daddy.
Another good idea is to be flexible, especially when it comes to what toothpaste your child uses. As children develop their own tastes, they may not like the taste of the typical minty adult-style toothpaste that mommy and daddy use, and that’s OK.
There are plenty of child-oriented toothpastes available that provide the same cavity-prevention and cleaning power as adult toothpaste but come in flavors that children will like better such as strawberry or bubble gum.
Again, the idea is to get your child into the habit of brushing regularly so that they develop good habits and maintain good oral health. The best way to do that is to get them started early and find ways to make tooth-brushing an activity they actually look forward to.