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10 Tips For Keeping Your Child's Teeth Healthy

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Anytime is the time to teach your kids proper dental care, here are 10 tips to help children of all ages keep their teeth healthy.

Start Early

Young girl brushing teeth with yellow toothbrush

Keeping your baby's mouth clean starts even before he/she has teeth! After feeding, use a damp cloth or gauze and gently wipe the mouth of any residue left behind.

Brush from the Beginning

Toddler smiling while holding a toothbrush

When do you start to brush? As soon as the first tooth begins to erupt! Use either an over the finger brush or a soft bristled brush for infants to clean the teeth. No toothpaste is necessary, just water is fine.

Avoid Sticky Snacks

raisins

As your baby starts to eat different kinds of foods, you may become concerned about what types of snacks are best, and what to avoid. Anything that is sticky or chewy that does not wash out easily from the mouth should be limited. Things like cereal and raisins are examples of foods that are healthy but can still cause cavities.

Finish with Water

Girl drinking water outdoors

When giving your child a snack that may stay in his/her teeth, try to follow up with some water. Water is a great neutralizer and it can help to wash away food that gets stuck in the teeth.

Visit the Dentist Early

First trip to the dentist

The Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children be seen for their first dental visit when the first tooth erupts or around the first birthday, whichever comes first. The first visit is a lot of talking—the dentist will ask lots of questions to help determine your child's overall risk for developing dental issues. Then she will do a quick check for any problems and discuss treatment options if necessary. It is also a chance to ask your dentist any and all questions that you have.

Pitch the Pacifier

pacifier in sand

Pacifiers and thumb sucking habits are really, really common. While kids often use them to help them self-soothe, they can do a lot of damage to the shape of the developing mouth. Try to eliminate the pacifier before the age of 3 to minimize issues. The thumb habit can be a bit more challenging to stop, but encouraging kids early on to limit the thumb outside of the house can be a big help.

Teach Good Tooth Brushing Habits

Toddler Brushing Teeth

In choosing what toothbrush is best, go for one that has soft bristles and one that your child can hold easily. Electric toothbrushes can be a great way to get your kids excited about brushing their teeth. However, it is important that kids still learn how to brush with a manual toothbrush. Teaching your kids to brush using a small circular motion mimics what electric toothbrushes do, and allows them to clean efficiently and well. Be sure to switch between manual and electric toothbrushes so that their kids learn the proper way to brush their teeth. And remember that regardless of what type of toothbrush your child uses, we always suggest brushing for 2 minutes twice a day!

Save Fluoride for Later

toothbrushes sitting in a cup

Avoid fluoride toothpaste until your child is able spit out well. Often, that doesn't happen until kids are between 3 and 4 years old, but you can start to work on spitting with plain water well before that.

Talk About Healthy Snacking

School lunch box with books and pencils

Especially as your kids get older, you can't always watch everything that goes into their mouths. Halloween is a great time to start talking to kids about making healthy snack choices. Apples, carrots and cheese are great tooth healthy options—have them cut up and ready for your kids at snack time. Talk about how Halloween is once a year and it is a chance to indulge, but responsibly! Chocolate is a much better option than sticky, chewy treats. And of course, practice what you preach—kids will definitely learn more by seeing you following your own advice.

Allow Sweets—Sparingly

Sea Salt Caramel Chocolates

I am a big believer that if you forbid your kids from having sweets, they will only want them more: think Johnny Depp’s Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. One approach that works is allowing a bit more indulgence on the holiday itself, and rationing out one or two pieces of candy per day for the next week. Then throw out or give away the leftovers. Some dentists will even have a “Halloween candy buy back” program where they will buy what’s left in exchange for cash! Of course, please make sure that your kids keep up with their regular oral hygiene routine even on special occasions!

 
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