That first pearly white tooth poking through those little pink gums is as much a childhood milestone to parents, as first steps and first words.
According to dental professionals the appearance of that very first tooth should also be the first step to a lifetime of good oral health habits.
“Parents should start cleaning primary teeth with a moist gauze, as soon as they erupt,” says Family Dentist, Mark H. Goodman, DDS. “Long before bringing your children in to their first trip to the dentist, parents can give their kids a great start by instilling good oral care habits.”
Dr. Goodman goes on to say that there is nothing wrong with the Tooth Fairy, but that parents need to also stress the importance of brushing. He advises parents to tell their kids that the Tooth Fairy will “reject” rotten teeth. He knows of one patient who collected a kid’s first lost tooth from under a pillow that had some decay, and the “Tooth Fairy” sent back a note along with a dollar that said, “Not a very nice tooth, I’ll take it this time, but you need to be brushing better!”
Dr. Goodman says the key to good oral care is to begin early. “As soon as your children are able, say at around 1 to 2 years old, they need to start brushing on their own. Use an ADA approved children’s toothpaste and a fun toothbrush. You need to let kids choose their favorite color brush, or a favorite Disney character, or superhero, and a tasty toothpaste flavor. The key is to make brushing an enjoyable activity and not seem like a chore or a punishment.”
Good Brushing Habits
We all know how important it is to brush, but how many of us really know how to do it? Not many according to Dr. Goodman. “Parents know it’s important to get their kids to brush, and while it’s true to try to make it fun, you also need to teach them proper technique.”
- Hold the brush at a 45-degree angle.
- Start from the front, and work towards the back teeth. Brush in gentle, circular, quick motions.
- Brush for at least two minutes.
Children must brush after meals or at least two or three times a day. Parents need to make sure that they are reaching all surfaces of the teeth, front, back, and chewing surfaces. And Goodman adds, “Make sure they also clean their tongue and the roof of their mouths, this will minimize bacteria that causes bad breath and decay.”
How to Floss
Despite what some parents believe, it is not painful or dangerous for kids to floss. Dental professionals recommend your kids should be flossing on their own by the time they head to school. Until he or she is an expert at flossing, supervise and give them some “how to” pointers now and then.
“Toddler age is a good time for the first visit to the dentist for a checkup and a parent-child oral hygiene lesson,” says Dr. Goodman. “At that time I also will give the parents some nutritional advice. A 6-month checkup and cleaning from this point on will ensure good oral health, as proper oral health for your child depends on a good Dentist-Parent partnership.”
Many pre-schools, and elementary schools require a “Dental Note” for students. If parents have already established a relationship with their children’s dentist this can be simply accomplished. Dr. Goodman adds that most family dentists are well qualified to treat children, however, “For more complicated issues, or difficult behavioral issues, parents may sometimes require the services of a Pediatric Dental Specialist.” If so, Goodman says they can ask their Family Dentist for a referral, or check with their local Dental Society for a list of Pediatric Dentists in their area.
“Good oral hygiene can be fun with all the great tasting toothpastes and toothbrushes that are made for kids to use, and if started early with continuous visits to the dentist, can result in a lifetime of good oral health.”
Now that is something that you, your kids, and your dentist can smile about!