Why should you teach your child good oral health care habits starting from the moment they can hold a toothbrush? First of all, the sooner you start teaching your children healthy habits, the more easily they will develop these habits and continue them on their own. If you wait until a child’s permanent teeth begin erupting to teach your kids to take care of their teeth, your child faces two major problems. One: they have already developed unhealthy oral care habits, so those habits will be much harder to change. Two: significant damage may have already been done by this point as baby teeth are more important than many people realize.
The Importance of Teaching Children to Take Care of Their Teeth, Even if Baby Teeth Will Eventually Fall Out
It’s true that baby teeth are only temporary, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t important, which is why it is vital to teach your children oral health care from the beginning. Baby teeth help your child with chewing and learning proper speech, the latter of which can reduce the need for speech therapy during their school years. In addition, baby teeth help the face develop its proper shape. Furthermore, baby teeth hold spaces for permanent teeth later on. Without teaching your child to take care of their teeth, a baby tooth can fall out too early due to tooth decay. Adjacent permanent teeth can drift into the empty space the baby tooth leaves. As a result, the permanent tooth that was meant for that space could become crowded and/or angled, meaning that your child will likely need braces in the future.
How to Teach Children to Take Care of Their Teeth
Believe it or not, you can start teaching children good oral health care habits during infancy; taking care of their teeth from the beginning ensures that they understand that this is a necessary step in their self-care. Start by wiping your child’s gums with gauze or a washcloth during infancy. Once the first few teeth erupt (typically the four in the front; two on top and two on the bottom), it’s time to start brushing your child’s teeth as well. Use only a smear of toothpaste no bigger than a grain of rice. It is also important to begin taking your child to the dentist at this time so your dentist can evaluate their teeth, gum, and jaw to make sure they are developing properly. In addition, this will help get your child used to visiting the dentist on a regular basis and can even reduce dental anxiety in the future.
As children get older, they may want to start brushing their teeth themselves. Supervising them during this time will ensure that they learn how to properly brush their teeth, as children do not usually have the manual dexterity to properly brush their teeth until they are between six and eight years old. In teaching kids to take care of their teeth, it is crucial to remind them to brush all sides and areas of their teeth, including the molars hiding in the back. You may want to turn this into a game to make it more fun. Just make sure they are thorough and offer help if they seem to be missing spots.
Teaching children about oral health care involves more than just teaching them to brush their teeth. It is important to teach other healthy dental habits early on, as well. Start helping your child floss their teeth once a day as soon as they have two teeth that are touching each other, and teach them about moderating their sugar intake. Do not allow them to drink sugary drinks over long periods of time, and do not allow them to drink anything but water before bed (even milk has sugar in it!). By teaching them these healthy lifestyle habits, you are also teaching your child how to take care of their teeth and their bodies!
You Don’t Have to Teach Your Children about Oral Health Care Alone
Let us help! The skilled and experienced dentists at the Covington Center for Family Dentistry have the knowledge and experience to help you teach your children about oral health care. For more information or to schedule an appointment for your child, call (678) 306-6000 or fill out our short online form.