caring for your children’s teeth
We know that caring for kids teeth can be stressful for parents!
With so much information available on the internet, it can be difficult to know what the most important things are when it comes to children’s dental care.
And this can leave you feeling overwhelmed.
If this sounds all too familiar, we have you covered with our all-inclusive guide to caring for kids teeth.
Table of Contents
So what are you waiting for?
Let’s get started, so you can stop worrying and begin caring for your child’s teeth in five easy steps!
Chapter 1: Toothbrushing For Kids
Regular tooth brushing is one of the best ways to care for your child’s teeth.
In fact, clean teeth are so important to children’s dental care that we suggest beginning to regularly clean your baby’s teeth before their first teeth come in!
When it comes to children’s tooth brushing, it all comes down to choosing the right toothbrush and toothpaste, using the proper technique, and sticking to a regular schedule.
1. Choosing The Right Toothbrush
The first step to brushing your children’s teeth is to choose the correct toothbrush to get the job done right!
We suggest using a toothbrush with soft bristles that is approved by the American Dental Association (ADA).
The soft bristles will ensure your child properly cleans their teeth without irritating their gums.
Aside from these guidelines, we suggest letting your kid choose a toothbrush that they love, which will help get them excited about brushing their teeth regularly.
2. Selecting The Right Toothpaste
With so many options to choose from, choosing a toothpaste for your kid can be overwhelming.
For children over the age of six, we suggest choosing a toothpaste that contains fluoride and is ADA approved.
However, for younger children that cannot spit well, we recommend opting for a fluoride-free toothpaste that is ADA approved.
For more information, check out our guide on all things toothpaste!
3. Using The Proper Brushing Technique
Now that you have the proper tools, it is time to focus on actually brushing your kid’s teeth.
Yes, using the correct toothbrush and toothpaste are important, but using the proper toothbrushing technique is what makes them effective at preventing gum disease and tooth decay!
Below are a few of our top tips for kids toothbrushing
- Have your child move the brush in small circular motions to reach food particles that may be under their gum line.
- Teach your kid to hold the toothbrush at an angle and brush slowly and carefully, covering all areas between teeth and the surface of each tooth.
- Remember that it should take several minutes for them to thoroughly brush their teeth.
- Be sure your child brushes up on their lower teeth, down on their upper teeth and the outside, inside, and chewing surface of all of their front and back teeth.
- Finally, make sure your kid brushes their tongue and the roof of their mouth before rinsing.
4. Sticking To A Schedule
At a minimum, your child should brush their teeth two times every day for two minutes each time.
However, ideally, kids should brush their teeth four times daily to avoid the accumulation of food particles and plaque. This includes:
- In the morning after breakfast
- After lunch or right after school
- After dinner
- At bedtime
Chapter 2: Flossing For Kids
If your kids are like most of our patients, flossing is probably not their favorite activity.
However, flossing is a critical part of children’s dental health.
So what exactly is flossing, and what does it do?
This small but mighty tool is a thin thread of waxed nylon that removes food particles and plaque from the areas that your toothbrush simply cannot reach
These are areas such as between the teeth and below the gumline.
It might not seem like a big deal, but regular flossing plays a major role in preventing cavities and keeping your child’s smile healthy and bright.
1. Choosing The Right Floss
Although any floss can get the job done, we suggest opting for floss sticks or picks, which are typically easier for children to use than traditional floss.
To get your kids excited about flossing, we also suggest choosing a flavored floss that will make flossing a little bit more fun.
2. Using The Proper Flossing Technique
Since flossing is one of the best ways to prevent tooth decay, it is important to make sure that you are doing it right!
When teaching your kids about flossing, be sure to follow the below guidelines:
- Pull a small length of floss from the dispenser.
- Have them wrap the ends of the floss tightly around their middle fingers.
- Ensure they guide the floss between all teeth to the gum line, pulling out any food particles or plaque.
- Make sure your kid unwraps the clean floss from around their fingers as they go so that you have used the floss from beginning to end when finished.
- Keep a close eye to make sure they floss behind all of their back teeth.
3. Stick To A Flossing Schedule
We suggest having your kids floss at night to make sure their teeth are squeaky clean before they go to bed.
When your child first begins flossing, their gums may bleed a little.
If the bleeding does not go away after the first few times, let a staff member know at your next appointment.
Chapter 3: Fluoride 101
Aside from regular brushing and flossing, fluoride is one of the best ways to prevent cavities in both children and adults.
Fluoride protects your teeth by strengthening them, which in turn makes them resistant to the acids that break down enamel causing tooth decay and cavities.
Fluoride is so powerful that it not only protects teeth from cavities — it can also reverse early stages of tooth decay!
In fact, thanks to its role in cavity prevention, the fluoridation of water is considered to be one of the most important achievements in public health during the 20th century.
So now that you know how amazing fluoride is at preventing tooth decay in children, you are probably wondering the best way to make sure your child is getting enough fluoride.
Below are some of our top guidelines for using fluoride to prevent cavities.
1. Ensure Your Drinking Water Contains Fluoride
One of the easiest ways to make sure your child is getting enough fluoride is to check if your tap water is fluoridated.
Many cities have laws requiring that fluoride is added to public drinking water.
If you aren’t sure if your city is one of these, you can get this information by contacting your local water authority.
If through this process you find out that your tap water does not contain fluoride, we suggest checking with your pediatric dentist about giving a fluoride supplement to your child.
2. Purchase Toothpaste With Fluoride
Another way to ensure your child’s teeth are protected by fluoride is to purchase a toothpaste that contains fluoride.
We discuss this topic further in our ultimate guide to children’s toothpaste.
3. Consider A Fluoride Treatment
A fluoride treatment is also another effective way to prevent cavities.
Fluoride treatments, which take place at your pediatric dentist’s office, are a quick and easy process that plays a big role in cavity prevention.
Even better, fluoride treatments can also reverse cavities that are in their early stages!
During the treatment, your pediatric dentist will simply paint your child’s teeth with a layer of fluoride varnish.
Once it sets, your child will be good to go, although your dentist will most likely instruct your child to not eat or drink for about 30 minutes following the fluoride treatment.
Chapter 4: Nutrition For A Healthy Smile
You probably know that nutrition is an important part of healthy growth and development for children.
However, did you know that nutrition also plays an important role in children’s dental health?
In order to keep your child’s smile strong and healthy, it is critical to ensure that they are eating plenty of the right foods while limiting their intake of foods and drinks that can cause tooth decay.
Below we break down the foods you should avoid, and the foods you should focus on instead to keep your child cavity free!
Foods And Drinks To Avoid
Fruit Juice, Soda, And Other Sweetened Beverages
When it comes to nutrition, one of the most important things you can do to prevent tooth decay is to limit your child’s intake of juice, soda, and sweetened beverages.
Most of us grew up thinking that juice was a healthy part of our diet.
However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently announced new guidelines limiting the recommended amount of juice intake for children, with tooth decay cited as one of their main reasons.
Sticky And/Or Chewy Foods
Due to their texture, snacks like granola bars, caramel, raisins, and dried fruit tend to stick to children’s teeth.
This, in turn, makes it difficult for saliva to remove sugar that is clinging to their teeth.
Because of this, it is best to avoid these foods.
However, if your child does eat them, we suggest having them brush their teeth as soon as they are done to remove any remaining sugar and food particles from their teeth.
Foods That Are High In Carbohydrates, Starches, And Sugar
Foods that are high in carbs, starches, and sugars all contribute to tooth decay.
Some of the main culprits that fall into this category include cookies, candy, cake, potato chips, pretzels.
It is totally fine to let your children indulge in these treats from time to time (followed immediately by tooth brushing!), just ensure they are not a part of your child’s regular diet.
Foods And Drinks To Encourage
Fruits And Vegetables
According to the American Dental Association, fruits and veggies should make up half of your child’s daily food intake.
Packed full of vitamins, fruits, and vegetables ensure your child is getting the nutrients that they need.
Some of our top picks for children’s dental health include celery, melons, and pears, due to their high water content, which keeps sugars from sticking to your child’s teeth.
Dairy products like cheese, yogurt, and milk play an important role in your child’s dental health.
These foods are wonderful sources of calcium, phosphate, and vitamin D, which raise the pH level in your child’s mouth leading to reduced acid and a lower risk of cavities and tooth decay.
Additionally, calcium mixes with the plaque in your child’s mouth, sticking to their teeth.
It may sound gross, but this actually protects the teeth from acid and can even repair damaged enamel!
Seeds And Nuts
Seeds and nuts like pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, almonds, and peanuts all contain natural fats.
These fats coat your child’s teeth when chewed, which shields them from bacteria.
The oils found in seeds also play a role in strengthening tooth enamel.
Chapter 5: The Importance Of Pediatric Dental Visits
The ADA suggests that all babies have their first dental visit by the age of one — or when their first teeth start to come in.
This will give your dentist a chance to check for any potential issues.
You’ll also have a chance to ask any questions that you may have.
After this, sticking to regular dental checkups is a great way to keep your child’s teeth healthy.
We suggest going at least twice a year, which will allow your dentist to catch cavities, tooth decay, and other issues in their early stages.
Outside of these biannual check-ups, be sure to bring your child to the dentist if they are experiencing tooth pain (which could signal an infection), injury to the mouth, or loss of a permanent tooth.
And there you have it — the five key elements of caring for kids teeth!
By regularly brushing and flossing, ensuring your child is getting enough fluoride, sticking to a healthy diet, and making regular dentist appointments, you can rest assured that you are doing everything you should be doing to keep your child’s smile healthy for many years to come.