Tips and Tricks for Promoting Good Oral Health in Your Children

A father and son brushing their teeth together in the mirror.

It may seem pretty obvious what adults should do to prevent cavities and have good oral health. You’ve probably heard them from your hygienist on multiple occasions –  brush twice a day, floss daily, avoid sugary drinks like soda, and come in for a professional cleaning every 6 months. However, we have a lot of parents that come in thinking that oral hygiene for their children is somewhat different than what they themselves practice. But this isn’t necessarily the case! Below are some common questions that parents ask regarding proper oral hygiene for young children.

At what age should I start bringing in my child for regular dental exams?

This is a common question and although the answer may seem obvious, it’s surprising how many parents wait until it’s too late and their child has several cavities before coming in for the first time. It is recommended to bring your child into the dentist as soon as their baby teeth start coming in. This often happens when your child is around 6-12 months old. Just because your child may only have one or two baby teeth, they can still get cavities, so  it’s vital to bring them in for regular check-ups at the dentist. Creating the habit of bringing them in from an early age will not only acclimate them to having someone poke around in their mouth (which will save you headaches down the road with potential mid-exam meltdowns), but it will also ensure that early signs of tooth decay are detected, saving you money and your child from potential discomfort.

How can I help comfort my child who is teething?

Teething, or the process where baby teeth come in, is often an uncomfortable, though necessary, experience for young children. We often get asked for some easy tips to soothe teething pain. One of the easiest and best things that parents can do is to purchase a soft-bristled toothbrush for babies, get it wet, then throw it in the freezer for an hour. Once it has cooled, give it to your child and let them stick the bristles in their mouth. This will soothe their aching gums, and also get them in the habit of holding a toothbrush and having it in their mouth.

How can I prevent cavities in my young children?

This is perhaps the most frequently asked question we get concerning young children.The answer is simple: : brush your children’s teeth with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day, help them floss, and avoid prolonged exposure to sugar. Even if your child is only 6 months old and has the tips of teeth jutting out, it is a good idea to help them brush with a fluoride toothpaste. In regards to flossing, try laying your child down so their head is in your lap, much like they would be in the dental chair, and floss their teeth. If this is too difficult for you with traditional floss, a flosser or a waterpik are also effective.

Finally, avoid sugar exposure as much as possible, including soda and candy. Many parents are surprised to hear that milk also contains sugar.  The most common way that cavities are formed in young children is when parents put them to bed with a bottle of milk. If a child l falls asleep with the bottle in their mouth, milk can drip into their mouth and sit there, pooled near your child’s teeth for hours while they sleep. The sugars in the milk eat away at your child’s tooth enamel, causing cavities. Instead of putting them to bed with milk, try feeding them the entire bottle before laying them in their crib with a pacifier. You can also swap out milk for water, which is harmless to your child’s teeth.

We hope these answered some of your questions regarding how best to care for your child’s oral health. If you have further questions, your hygienist would be happy to offer more tips and tricks.