9 Dental Health Tips for Kids
As a parent, few things fill your heart with joy like your child’s smile. You want to do everything you can to keep it healthy. How can you ensure that your children grow up with a mouthful of well-polished pearlies? Here are nine dental health tips for kids to keep their smiles bright and healthy.
1. Give Them Their Vitamins
Many children benefit from a daily vitamin supplement, although it is no substitute for a healthy diet. Your child needs specific nutrients to grow healthy teeth.You probably think of calcium, which is an essential nutrient for supporting bone structure and preventing decay. However, your body absorbs it more effectively when paired with vitamin D. You also need vitamin K to increase bone strength and vitamins A and C to prevent gingivitis and spur saliva production.
2. An Apple a Day
The foods your child eats influence their oral health. You probably know that letting them enjoy a steady diet of candy and junk food will harm their teeth. However, other foods have benefits.
Cruciferous vegetables, for example, help your child generate saliva while acting as natural toothbrushes to scrape debris away from surfaces. Go ahead and pack celery with peanut butter or some baby carrots with ranch. Encourage them to finish their lunch with an apple to wash away any crumbs.
3. Teach Them How to Brush
Children aren’t born with instinctive tooth-brushing knowledge. You have to show them the ropes as a parent. Show them how to hold the brush at a 45-degree angle at their gum line to eliminate the most plaque. Play a game to estimate how long two minutes is — you can use an egg timer to ensure they scrub enough. Instruct them on how to get behind their front teeth and pay attention to their molars.
4. Provide Accessible Floss
If your child doesn’t like dental floss, they are not alone. Less than a third of the population does so each day — although they should. In many cases, discomfort drives kids to avoid the practice.
Try making flossing more accessible. Many kids find wider dental tape more comfortable than round floss, which can cut gums. Tiny fingers might manipulate flossing sticks with handles better than strings. Those with sensitive gums could benefit from a water flosser for a painless way to remove trapped food particles.
5. Don’t Forget to Rinse
Your child should brush their teeth twice a day, and one cleanse should be a complete job, including floss and a mouth rinse. You can find plenty of products that are alcohol-free to nourish their teeth.
According to Mark Wolff, DDS, Ph.D., chair of cardiology and comprehensive care at New York University College of Dentistry, such rinses can reduce the risk of gingivitis and cavities. It doesn’t matter if your child uses them before or after brushing, but many enjoy the feeling of finishing with a swish.
6. Keep Their Regular Checkups
Your child should see their dentist within their first year — then you get a break before age two. Once they hit their second birthday, you should make a checkup appointment every six months. Check with your health insurance provider. Many policies that exclude adult dental coverage do include it for children. This issue might be one to inquire about when your company holds its annual policy sign-up.
If you have economic hardship, look into available aid. Many state programs also cover dental care for children. Additionally, you can sometimes find free clinics, although you may have to wait in a long line — which isn’t always convenient with toddlers.
7. Embrace Fluoride Treatments
When you do book your dental appointment, your provider may suggest a fluoride treatment. Consider this option — while it may seem like an added expense, it can save you money in the long run. Such therapies help your child’s body use minerals like calcium and phosphorus more effectively, reducing the risk of cavities.
If your child is younger than six, you should opt for a varnish. Older kids can use foams or gels, some of which are approved for home use.
8. Discourage Pacifier Use and Thumb-Sucking
Babies instinctively suck, and many turn to pacifiers or thumb-sucking to self-soothe. While this behavior is natural, try to discourage it after the age of two as it can cause changes in the roof of your child’s mouth and misalign their teeth.
Please try not to scold your child — punishing them for a natural coping mechanism invalidates their feelings and crushes their spirit. Instead, praise and reward them when they do well during stressful times. You can also embrace practices like putting a bandage or sock over their hand at night if they tend to suck in their sleep.
9. Set the Right Example
If you tell your kids to brush their teeth at night, but they never see you do it, what message does that send? Consider making oral hygiene a family affair, at least sometimes, to set a positive example. Your kids imitate nearly everything you do, including your eating habits. If you cut back on added sugars in your diet, your kids may reduce their intake based on what’s available in the kitchen. You protect your oral health and theirs while helping stem the rising tide of childhood obesity.
Parents, Try These 9 Dental Health Tips for Kids
Children aren’t born knowing how to care for their teeth. Parents, try these nine dental health tips for kids to keep your child’s smile bright!