It’s never too early to start thinking about dental care for kids. Whether you have a baby, toddler or young child, those little teeth still need attention. Teaching your children how to care for their teeth at an early age is the best way to instill good oral hygiene habits. But when should you start and how do you begin?
Start Routines Early
Did you know that you can teach babies good dental hygiene before their first tooth even comes in? It’s true. Get infants into the habit of having something in their mouths by wiping their gums with a soft cloth or gauze. Then, when teeth erupt, use an infant toothbrush to brush their teeth. Decay will collect as soon as a tooth emerges so it’s important to keep it clean—even if it is just one baby tooth. Infants are notoriously curious creatures, so allow them to play with the toothbrush under your supervision. Let them hold it in their hands and put the bristles on their teeth. Even if they’re just playing, you’re laying the foundation for great dental habits.
It’s also important to start flossing as soon as there is room between teeth. If you normalize flossing at an early age, your children won’t fight it when they get older.
The First Dental Appointment
According to the Academy of General Dentistry, appointments should be made about six months after your child’s first tooth erupts. It’s a smart idea to make the appointment before your baby’s first birthday. However, it’s never too late for his or her first trip to the dentist. If you have a toddler who’s never gone for a checkup, schedule one right away. Dental care for kids is important at a young age.
It’s smart to choose a kid-friendly dentist for your child’s first appointment. You may love your own dentist that you’ve had for more than 20 years, however, that office might not be best suited for children.
Young children may feel nervous about going to the dentist, and it’s your responsibility to put them at ease. Since many babies and young toddlers don’t communicate with words, find other ways to introduce teeth cleaning and the idea of going to the dentist. Show them familiar characters who have good oral care. Watching videos of Daniel Tiger brushing his teeth or Peppa Pig going to the dentist for the first time will make your child more confident to do it too.
If your children are old enough to communicate, ask them if they have any questions about dental care for kids. Doing so will unearth any concerns they may have, and you can address them before the big day. Another way to prepare a young child is to role-play. Have your child sit down while you pretend to be the dentist and touch their teeth with a toothbrush. Then, switch roles. You can be the patient and your child can play the dentist.
And finally, don’t be anxious about the appointment. Your children will feed off your energy, and feel afraid to go. Remember how great you feel with a clean smile, and encourage your child to embrace this new milestone in his or her life.