If you’re a parent, one of the best gifts you can give your children is the training they need to live a healthy lifestyle. Part of this training includes teaching your children to practice good oral hygiene.

But when should you start training your children to take care of their mouths and teeth? And where should you begin?

Starting Off Right

If you want to instill good oral health habits in your children, you have to set the right example. That means regular brushing and flossing, right alongside your children if possible.

Make brushing fun by letting your child pick out a toothbrush they like, maybe with their favorite animal or cartoon character. You might try brushing to music or giving a prize for good brushing and flossing. By getting your children involved, you make oral hygiene fun and get them to care about their teeth.

Baby Dental Care

If your child still feeds from the breast or uses a bottle, it’s important that you don’t let him or her go to sleep with the bottle in the mouth. This is because milk, formula, or juice carries sugar that feed acid-causing bacteria in the mouth. This acid attacks the hard enamel on the teeth and can lead to early tooth decay.

But what if the first teeth haven’t yet appeared? You can still do a lot to help keep your baby’s mouth healthy! For example, use a damp washcloth to wipe baby’s gums after feeding. (This helps prevent bacteria from building in the mouth.) And once those first teeth emerge, start brushing at least once a day using a small, soft-bristled toothbrush. A thin smear of fluoride toothpaste will be just enough to help strengthen the enamel on baby’s newly formed teeth.

Age 3 and Beyond

At the age of three, you can continue training your children how to:

Brush their own teeth: Make sure to show them proper technique. (If you need help with this, ask us during your next dentist appointment.) From ages 3-6, you should continue to assist your child when brushing as they may not have the fine motor skills and motivation to brush well.

Use a soft-bristled toothbrush with just a pea-sized drop of fluoride toothpaste. And make sure they don’t swallow the toothpaste! Doing so regularly could lead to staining of the teeth.

Floss daily: First, teach them why we floss, namely to remove all the icky stuff between teeth and gums. Then, help them to follow through on daily flossing.

Maintain a nutritious diet: Limit your child’s intake of soda and sugary snacks, which contribute to plaque buildup that damages teeth. Feed them a well-balanced diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables.

Visit the dentist: Your child should have their first dental visit by the age of 1 year old. This will allow us to examine your child’s teeth for early decay. We can also show you proper brushing technique and see if your child is getting enough fluoride.

After the first visit, you should bring your child in twice a year so we can continue to monitor their progress and provide any needed supplements.

Oral Health for Teenagers

When your children reach the teen years, you’ll probably be granting them greater independence. But it’s important that you continue to offer guidance, also for their oral health. Teach them the dangers of tobacco use and alcohol abuse, also how these relate to their teeth and gums. And encourage them to drink plenty of water, while avoiding highly acidic drinks like soda and energy drinks as much as possible.

Also important is that your teens continue their routine of twice-yearly visits to your Carmichael dentist. This will allow us to continue to help nurture their good oral health habits, as well as identify possible issues (such as an improper bite) that may be fixed with orthodontics — a treatment that is far more effective during the teen years than later in life.

Put Your Child in Good Hands

So, when was the last time you scheduled a dentist appointment for your child? If it’s been longer than six months, why not give us a call at the Marconi Dental Group today? Together, we’ll help provide your child with the gift of a clean and healthy mouth.