Caring for teeth is not something that comes to children naturally. They have to be taught good oral hygiene right from a young age, so that they can maintain a healthy set of teeth well into their golden years. The best time to start? Even before they get their teeth. Find out how to teach your child to care for their teeth in simple, fun ways.

Timing Is Everything:
It’s alarming that tooth decay is one of the most common chronic diseases among children and teenagers, with more than 40 percent of kids sporting cavities by the time they reach kindergarten.

Make sure your child visits the dentist for the first time when he turns a year old. Not only will this guarantee good oral health for him or her, your finances will thank you for it too. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report indicated that dental care costs were nearly 40 percent lower over a 5-year period for children who saw a dentist by age 5.

  • Even if your baby doesn’t have teeth yet, wipe their mouth out with a soft washcloth, or brush the gums with water and a baby toothbrush.
  • Once the teeth appear, brush twice daily with an infant toothbrush and fluoridated toothpaste.
  • It’s a good time to start flossing when teeth are touching each other, but get guidance from a dentist on techniques and schedules.
  • Mouthwash should only be used by children who know how to spit, since it should not be swallowed.

Ditch The Extras:
Sippy cups and pacifiers are repeat offenders when it comes to children’s oral health. Although sippy cups help kids transition from bottle to regular cups, parents should avoid filling them, or bottles with juice or sugary beverages, as these cause tooth decay.

  • If your child needs a bottle to sleep, fill it with warm water instead of formula or milk.
  • Pacifiers are for infants and not toddlers, since extended use can affect the shape of a child’s bite and even the shape of their mouth.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests letting babies use a pacifier when falling asleep, but urges parents to remove it once they drift off.
  • Children’s medications are usually flavored and sugary, which makes them prime culprits for tooth decay. So check with your doctor if your child needs to brush more often.

Make It Fun:
Since it’s so important for kids to care for their teeth, it is essential to infuse some fun into the activity. After all, if they find it enjoyable, they will be more likely to stick to it and carry on when they are older. Here’s what you can do to instill good oral health habits:

  • Allow children to pick their own age-appropriate toothbrushes and toothpastes, once you check that the brands in question meet all the health standards.
  • Little kids need a lot of patience when they’re learning to brush correctly, but don’t leave them alone till they’re at least 6 years old. Flossing needs supervision till they’re almost 10.
  • Instead of waiting till they are ready for bed, get them to brush after dinner, so that they’re not too tired or sleepy to do it right.
  • Don’t allow them to eat or drink anything other than plain water, after brushing at night.
  • If they are reluctant to brush, motivate them with stickers or gold stars on a chart.
  • Set a good example by maintaining good oral hygiene yourself, and even brushing together with the kids.

Teaching your child good dental habits will reap rich rewards when they are older. So don’t forget to follow these simple steps to preserve your baby’s smile.

Read More:
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Simona is a journalist who has worked with several leading publications in India over the last 17 years, writing on lifestyle topics and the arts, besides interviewing celebrities. She made the switch to public relations and headed the division as PR Manager at ITC Hotels’ flagship property, the ITC Grand Chola, but has since returned to her first love, journalism. Now she writes on food, which she is sincerely passionate about and wellness, which she finds fascinating and full of surprises. When she isn’t writing, she is busy playing the role of co-founder and communications director of The Bicycle Project, a six-year-old charity initiative that empowers tribal children in rural areas, while addressing the issue of urban waste.