So you have a little bundle of joy. A toothless, drooly and adorable bundle of joy. Then one day a tooth comes in, and then another, and then another and another until they’re chewing their food and you’re wondering what you should be doing to care for those little chompers. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) suggests a visit to the dentist when your child’s first tooth comes saying “ONE dental visit when there’s ONE tooth can equal ZERO cavities.” Pediatric dentists are generally very fun offices to visit with toys and games, movies and more often taking center stage in the waiting room and prizes and stickers as rewards after the visit. You may leave the visit wishing you could switch to a pediatric dentist.
Aside from regular dental visits there are some tricks to help maintain great dental hygiene for your baby or toddler. Offering up a baby-sized tooth brush to your little one after meals or in the morning and before bed – when they are old enough to successfully put it in their mouth and not poke out their eye, of course – can help familiarize kids with a toothbrush, and the routine of brushing twice a day. After your little one plays with the toothbrush for a couple of minutes take your turn with the toothbrush and gently brush kids’ teeth, gums, and tongue. As kids get a bit older, you’ll be able to switch to guiding them through the process of brushing teeth by placing your hand over theirs and guiding the brush in their mouth. If you have a more independent toddler with a very “I can do it myself” attitude, try giving them the chance to “brush” their teeth on their own then ask to check to see if they missed any spots. This is the method we’ve had to take in our own home, as my youngest believes she can do everything her older sibling can do, including fully brushing her teeth on her own. We humor her and avoid a fight by letting her have a first go and then checking her work. I may also help to set a routine by making yourself the example and brushing alongside your children each morning and night.
What are your best tips to encourage good dental hygiene habits in young children?