Any parent will tell you that persuading children to brush their teeth is often a difficult task. When there are cartoons to watch and toys to play with, those four minutes a day that your little one needs to spend brushing can seem like forever! However, making the right choices now will help them to have healthy teeth throughout their childhood and give them habits they can take forward to adulthood.
Teaching them good dental habits will help keep their dentist – and the tooth fairy – happy for years to come!
Babies will usually cut their first tooth between 4 and 8 months of age, although they have been known to arrive much sooner and much, much later! As soon as your baby gets a tooth you should begin the cleaning process. Get them an infant toothbrush to hold and show them the actions that they need to make. When you actually brush them, use a tiny smear of non-fluoride toothpaste as your child will almost certainly swallow it. The most important thing at this stage is to make brushing part of their daily routine.
If your baby drinks from a bottle, then always try and give water or milk rather than juice. Bottles encourage prolonged sucking, meaning that any sugar contained in the drink will be contacted with your child’s teeth for longer, increasing the risk of decay. Teeth are also at greater risk at night when there is less saliva to protect them, so the sooner your child drops any night-time feeds the better… for your sanity as well as their teeth!
Good nutrition is not only important for your child’s growth and well-being, but it also plays a vital part of maintaining good oral health. Calcium is an essential nutrient for developing strong teeth and fortifies the adult teeth during childhood. A glass of milk is a great accompaniment to your child’s snack. Under 5’s should really have full fat or semi-skimmed varieties, while older kids can opt for lower fat versions.
As we know kids have a lot of energy, and that energy requires snacks to keep them going. Unfortunately, most convenience snacks contain high amounts of salt and sugar, making them far from an ideal choice for maintaining healthy teeth. Limited amounts of fruit, veggies, complex carbs like wholegrain toast and cubes of cheese are much better alternatives.
It is a cliché, but water really is the very best drink that we can give to our children for every aspect of their health. It is sugar-free, calorie-free and great for staying hydrated. Sugary and fizzy drinks should be avoided as much as possible, and if you opt to give your child fruit juice, try and provide unsweetened varieties.
Make brush time fun
As we know, getting your kids to make time to brush their teeth can be a challenge. Making it a routine and making it fun are the best ways to ensure that they look after their oral health.
We know that the recommended brushing time is two minutes, but to a kid that is forever! A great way to keep kids entertained while ensuring that they brush for the full two minutes is to use an egg timer. Kids are fascinated watching the sand trickle away and the two minutes are quickly over for them. Better still, they are inexpensive and easy to find online. Another great alternative is to put some music on that they like and tell them to brush until the end of the song. They could even have a little dance around the bathroom whilst they do it!
Other useful ways to encourage brushing include stickers and reward charts and allowing your children to pick out their own toothbrushes – just make sure they are the small-head variety to help them get into those hard to reach places!
Become friends with the dentist
As soon as your child has a number of teeth ensure that you register them with a dentist and start taking them for regular check-ups. Your dentist will make sure that your child’s teeth are in optimum health, your child will learn to feel comfortable in the environment, and going for an oral check-up will quickly become an easy routine and absolutely nothing to be frightened of!
Teaching your children good dental habits will ensure that they have healthy teeth and beautiful smiles that will benefit them for years to come. And after all, the tooth fairy doesn’t give anything uncared for teeth, does she?!