Getting a toddler or preschooler to stick to a basic dental care routine isn’t easy. But it’s well worth the fight.
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. While this topic probably should be on every parent’s mind year ‘round, we take the opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of developing good habits early. I know what you are thinking! Of course a dentist would say so.
However, the facts are on our side:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cavities are one of the most common chronic diseases of childhood in the United States. Studies have shown that untreated cavities can cause pain and infections that may lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing, and learning. Children who have poor oral health often miss more school and receive lower grades. Moreover, the CDC reports that about 1 of 5 (20 percent) children aged 5 to 11 years have at least one untreated decayed tooth.
The good news is that that many of these issues can be prevented by brushing daily, avoiding sugary or acidic drinks, and regular check-ups.
Speaking of brushing… did you know that if your child is younger than 6 years, you should watch your child brush their teeth? Help your child brush until she has good brushing skills.
What age should you start taking your child to the dentist?
Once again, developing good habits young is the key to life-long oral health. How young? The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that a child should go to the dentist by age 1 or within six months after the first tooth erupts – and then return regularly for prevention and treatment. We recommend to stick to this recommendation. Not that we expect to find something wrong with brand-new teeth, but if you have a baby or toddler, you may have questions about thumb sucking, your child’s first dental visit or how and when to clean your child’s teeth. Parents will learn about proper dental care routines for kids, ways to prevent early childhood caries, when to expect changes from primary to permanent teeth, proper brushing and flossing techniques, thumb-sucking, dental sealants, choosing the right mouth protector for active children and adolescents, and teaching their children to say no to tobacco. We offer dental care for the entire family. Read more about our family dentistry services at our Norman dental office.
Why is it so important to start dentist visits early?
Most importantly perhaps, we will get your child used to the idea of being at a dentist office and sitting in the chair.
- Reducing Fear and Anxiety: Many children naturally feel anxious or fearful about visiting the dentist due to the unfamiliar environment, equipment, and procedures. Familiarizing them with the dental office and chair can help alleviate their fear by making the experience more comfortable and less intimidating.
- Establishing a Positive Dental Attitude: Early exposure to the dental setting can shape a child’s attitude towards oral health. By creating positive experiences at the dentist’s office, you can help your child develop a healthy and positive attitude towards dental care. This can have long-lasting effects, encouraging them to maintain good oral hygiene habits throughout their lives.
- Building Trust: Regular dental visits are essential for maintaining oral health, and establishing trust between your child and the dentist is crucial. By gradually introducing them to the dental office and chair, your child can become familiar with the dentist, dental hygienist, and other staff members, building trust and making future visits more comfortable.
- Preventing Dental Issues: Early dental visits allow the dentist to identify any potential oral health problems at an early stage. Regular check-ups can help detect issues like tooth decay or improper bite development, which can be addressed promptly. By acclimatizing your child to the dental environment, you increase the likelihood of them cooperating during examinations and treatments, making it easier for the dentist to provide the necessary care.
- Education and Awareness: Dental visits provide an opportunity for children to learn about oral hygiene practices, such as brushing, flossing, and healthy eating habits. Dentists can educate both parents and children on the importance of good oral care, diet, and the prevention of dental problems. When children are comfortable in the dental chair, they are more likely to engage in conversations and actively participate in their oral health education.
Familiarizing your child with the dentist’s office and chair helps create a positive association with dental care, reduces anxiety, builds trust, and promotes good oral health habits. It sets the foundation for a lifetime of oral health and well-being.
How to teach your toddler basic oral health habits?
The key is to make oral hygiene fun, engaging, and a positive experience. In this blog post, we will explore some practical tips to help you encourage your little one to embrace a dental care routine.
- Lead by Example: Kids often mimic the behavior of their parents, so let your own oral hygiene habits serve as a role model for your child. Brush your teeth together, showing them the correct technique and making it a shared activity. This will not only reinforce the importance of dental care but also create a bonding experience.
- Start Early: Introduce dental care as early as possible to make it a familiar and natural part of your child’s routine. Even before the first tooth erupts, gently clean your baby’s gums with a soft, damp cloth or infant toothbrush. As teeth start to appear, switch to a small, soft-bristled toothbrush and a rice-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
- Make It Fun and Interactive: Transforming dental care into a fun activity can motivate your child to participate. Let them choose their own toothbrush with their favorite character or color. Sing a toothbrushing song or create a special routine, like pretending to be tooth superheroes. Consider using an hourglass or timer to make brushing a game and ensure they brush for the recommended two minutes.
- Offer Age-Appropriate Dental Products: Using age-appropriate dental products can make brushing more comfortable for your child. Choose a toothbrush with a small head and soft bristles designed specifically for toddlers or preschoolers. Use a fluoride toothpaste approved by your dentist, ensuring it is safe to swallow for children who haven’t mastered spitting yet.
- Provide Positive Reinforcement: Praise and reward your child’s efforts to establish a dental care routine. Applaud their cooperation, use stickers or a sticker chart to track progress, or offer small, non-food rewards. Positive reinforcement helps create a positive association with oral hygiene and motivates them to continue practicing good dental care.
- Encourage Healthy Eating Habits: A healthy diet plays a significant role in maintaining good oral health. Encourage your child to consume nutritious foods and limit sugary snacks and drinks. Explain how certain foods can harm their teeth and emphasize the importance of brushing afterward. By linking diet to dental care, you reinforce the overall message of oral health.
Instilling a basic dental care routine in your toddler or preschooler can set the foundation for a lifetime of good oral health habits. Remember to schedule regular dental visits and educate them about the importance of healthy eating. With your guidance and patience, your child will develop a lifelong commitment to maintaining a healthy smile.
Because going to the dentist is not only necessary, but can also be a lot of fun.
Children’s teeth are meant to last a lifetime, and a healthy smile is important to a child’s self-esteem. With proper care, a balanced diet and regular dental visits, their teeth remain healthy and strong.