We all want our children to have healthy teeth. That means getting them off to the best start possible when it comes to dental care and oral hygiene. The fact is that childhood cavities are very common – in fact, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry says that early childhood carries are the most common chronic childhood disease. The good news is that it’s also preventable. Today we’re sharing some tips to help you get your preschoolers involved in taking care of their teeth, so that you can establish good habits for a lifetime.
Healthy Teeth for Preschoolers: Six Tips
1. Set a Routine
Brushing and flossing should be one of those things that you do every day at about the same time, so that it becomes part of your normal routine. With everyone heading back-to-school and work, this is a great time to set up a good routine. Preschoolers, especially, thrive on routine and knowing what’s going to happen next. Talking about when tooth-brushing happens helps to emphasize that routine. Soon enough your little one will be reminding you when it’s time to brush and floss.
2. Adult Supervision Required
Children under the age of eight need adult help when it comes to brushing and flossing their teeth. While independent-minded toddlers may demand, “I do it myself!” you do need to be involved to ensure healthy teeth. Some parents find it helpful to let their little ones brush on their own first, while they follow up and say, “Open wide, let me see how well you’ve cleaned your teeth!” Letting them see you brush and floss is also a great idea, as it sets a good example and emphasizes that your family values oral hygiene.
3. Healthy Snacks
Sugar in food is broken down by bacteria in our mouths, which forms acid. This acid makes our teeth weak by removing minerals from the tooth surface. The more often your little one eats, the more frequently their teeth are bathed in this acid. This means it’s important to avoid frequent sugary or starchy snacks like dried fruit, candy, crackers or granola bars. Choose cheeses, nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables, popcorn or meat for snacks. Giving your little one water after a snack may help rinse their teeth, as well.
4. Make Time for Practice
While preschoolers do need adult supervision with brushing and flossing, giving them time to practice on their own will help them learn. As we mentioned earlier, you can let them brush first while you follow up. You can also let them brush at any time during the day with just water on the toothbrush. You can demonstrate how you brush your teeth for them so that they can copy you. Make sure to keep it fun, and praise your child’s efforts as they learn how to care for their teeth.
5. Fluoride Matters
Here in Vancouver there is very little natural fluoride in the water, and our water isn’t fluoridated. This means that it’s even more important to use a toothpaste that contains fluoride. Fluoride in toothpaste helps strengthen tooth enamel and prevent tooth decay. Use a small amount of fluoride toothpaste twice a day – with preschoolers you will control the amount of toothpaste, and therefore the amount of fluoride. If your child is at risk for cavities, your dentist may recommend giving additional fluoride as a supplement either in a drop or chewable tablet form.
6. See the Dentist Early and Often
Of course, to help make sure that your little one has healthy teeth, it’s important that your child has regular dental care. The Canadian Dental Association recommends regular dental visits starting at about one year of age, or six months after the first tooth appears. These early visits are a good opportunity to talk to the dentist about any concerns you have and get tips. You’re also helping your child to establish a positive relationship with the dentist, and make sure that any problems are addressed early so that your child has healthy teeth for life.
This article was sponsored by Tot 2 Teen Dental. Dr. Anita Gartner of Tot 2 Teen is a Certified Specialist in Pediatric Dentistry. She is passionate about working with children and special needs individuals. The team at Tot 2 Teen believes that communication and education is important to good oral health. Introducing your child to the dentist by the age of one (or six months after the first tooth erupts), not only creates a good relationship with the dental team but it also promotes good oral habits for a lifetime of healthy teeth. They make this experience fun and relaxing for everyone. For example, for younger children a “lap to lap” examination may be suggested. Together you and the staff will be able to see into your child’s mouth and your child will feel safe in your arms. As a Pediatric dentist, Dr. Gartner can offer special services for children such behaviour management, nitrous oxide, oral sedation and treatment under general anesthesia.