MUNDELEIN, ILLINOIS – Oral hygiene for children does not have to be a subject that causes adults to grind their own teeth, with this list of suggestions from the pediatric dentists at Affiliated Dental Specialists.
“We want to share every tip and trick and resource we have to help parents instill effective oral hygiene habits in their children at an early age,” says Dr. James Orbon, a kids’ dentistry practitioner with decades of experience.
Oral hygiene for children is the same routine that is recommended for adults: brushing after breakfast and before bedtime for three to five minutes with fluoride toothpaste, flossing once a day and rinsing with a fluoridated mouthwash.
“We recommend parental supervision and assistance until 8 years old because children may not have the manual dexterity-or attention to detail-needed to thoroughly clean their teeth,” says Dr. Cameron Wagner, a pediatric dentist.
Ideally, parents should start brushing their children’s teeth before the kids even have any. Babies’ gums can be “brushed” using a soft washcloth, and flossing should begin once any two of the child’s teeth touch each other.
“Starting early is really the best way to keep oral hygiene from becoming a fight as the child grows up,” says Dr. David Maddox.
Whatever protests a child may give, it is crucial to their health that brushing, flossing and rinsing occur to reduce the amount of plaque-causing bacteria in their mouths.
“Sometimes resistance may be caused by the size of the tooth brush or the flavor and texture of the toothpaste,” says Dr. Orbon. He recommends trying a smaller or different shaped toothbrush, a paste instead of a gel or bubblegum instead of mint flavor and to make sure it is a child-sized, soft-bristle toothbrush.
Kids only need to use a pea-size amount of toothpaste. More than that is unnecessary and can create too much foam, making it more difficult for them to brush. Younger children may find it hard to keep their mouths open for an extended period of time. Taking breaks to let their jaw rest can help, according to Dr. Maddox, a kids’ dentist. Mundelein parents that come to our practice ask for suggestions, so we compiled a list of ways to make oral hygiene more fun and encourage kids to take care of their teeth.
- Purchase child-friendly dental products and let them choose the color and flavor.
- Try an electric toothbrush.
- A sticker calendar gives some kids the positive reinforcement they need to cooperate, and a calendar with different rewards works for older children as well.
- Brush together as a family.
- Take turns with the toothbrush. Mom or Dad get to brush for one minute, the child gets one minute.
- Incorporate friends into oral hygiene: brush the teeth of her special ducky or the Elmo toy that goes everywhere with him or get Buzz Lightyear to tell her what to do.
- Change up the location by brushing and flossing in the bathtub or shower.
- Flossing younger children’s teeth is easiest when they are sitting in an adult’s lap, facing each another.
- Brush for a specific amount of time they can understand- two ABC songs, one Winnie the Pooh song, until this timer goes off, while this light flashes or each tooth for 5 seconds.
- Have the child think of all the food he or she ate during the day, and then brush those foods out of the teeth one at a time.
“As long as the teeth get thoroughly brushed, flossed and rinsed, it doesn’t matter if it happened at the sink, in the bathtub, while they were upside down or if it took ten minutes to finish,” says Dr. Wagner. “Experiment with these suggestions and let us know what techniques have worked for you so we can pass them along to other parents.”
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