Good Oral Health Habits for Your ChildrenGood oral health habits are essential for your children to prevent issues such as tooth decay and gum inflammation.

Although baby (primary) teeth will eventually fall out, they play a major role in enabling youngsters to eat and speak properly, and in maintaining facial structure and reserving space for permanent adult teeth.

Children will generally have a full set of 20 baby teeth by the time they're three years old. When they reach about six, these teeth will start to fall out, making way for adult teeth. Most permanent teeth will be present by the age of 11 to 13.

Tooth decay is prevalent among children who still have baby teeth as they get older. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one in five youngsters between ages five to eleven get cavities. Decay in baby teeth can also damage the permanent teeth developing beneath them.

If decay leads to early loss of a baby tooth, adult teeth can drift into the space, making it difficult for other permanent teeth to find room. This can result in the adult teeth growing in crowded or crooked.

Problems like these can be avoided by encouraging your children to develop good oral health habits, and the most important are brushing and flossing.

Encouraging Your Children to Brush Their Teeth

The absence of a regular routine of brushing can result in discomfort and issues with speaking and eating, well into the emergence of permanent teeth. It also lays the foundation of a pattern of poor oral hygiene for the future, putting adult teeth at risk.

It’s important to show your children how to brush their teeth properly. This process should begin as soon as they’re capable of brushing their own teeth – a job you will have been doing for them up to the age of around six years old.

The American Dental Association (ADA) advises parents to supervise their children’s teeth brushing until about the age of eight. This gives you the opportunity to instill in them a good oral health habit that will stand them in good stead for the rest of their life.

The ADA advises parents to lead by example by making brushing a family affair, which will also enable you to make sure your kids are brushing properly.

Brushing should be carried out for two minutes twice a day (at least), preferably in the morning and just before bed. This will help to get rid of food particles and bacterial plaque that can damage teeth and gums.

Encourage your children to adopt the following brushing process, using a soft-bristled brush:

  • Clean the outer surfaces of the upper teeth and then the lower teeth.
  • Brush the inner surfaces of the upper teeth, then the lower teeth.
  • Clean the chewing surfaces of all the teeth.
  • Brush the tongue at least once a day for fresher breath.

Getting Your Children into the Flossing Habit

Getting young children into the habit of flossing is just as important as encouraging them to brush their teeth. Brushing by itself won’t get rid of all the plaque and harmful bacteria it contains.

Daily flossing removes plaque and bits of food that become trapped between the teeth and can lead to tooth decay, gum problems and bad breath.

You can begin to teach your children how to floss for themselves when they’re around the age of 10. Give your youngsters floss that’s soft and flexible, so it’s comfortable on their gums, and get them to:

  • Glide the floss gently between their teeth, without yanking it down onto the gums.
  • Shape the floss in a C around each tooth.
  • Direct the floss into the gum line, moving it up and down the sides of each tooth.
  • Use a new piece of floss for each tooth.

As with brushing, you can make flossing a family affair to set a good example and demonstrate the right techniques. Flossing products come in a variety of fun flavors for kids, so let your children pick one they particularly like using.

Importance of Regular Dental Visits for Your Kids

Your children’s routine of oral health care at home should be backed up with regular visits to the dentist for check-ups and professional cleanings. In fact, the American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) advise parents to take their children for their first dental appointment soon after the first tooth appears, typically at around six months old.

Continuing a routine of regular dental visits will enable detection of potential problems before they develop into serious issues. Six-monthly check-ups are generally recommended but your children's dentist will tell you how often their teeth should be examined, based on their individual oral health.

Regular professional teeth cleaning is an essential part of preventive dental care for children, reducing the risk of gum problems and tooth decay.

Lakeside Dental from Moses Lake Washington on the subject of the importance of pediatric dentistry adds, "By bringing your child to a family dentist early, you’re instilling a positive perception of dental care. Waiting until they’re in pain will only make going to the dentist feel like something that’s linked with negative memories or even scary. A positive experience affects your child’s entire perception of how they will envision trips to the dentist once they get older."

Why Your Children Need Preventive Pediatric Dental Care

Your children’s primary teeth need the same level of care as adult teeth, so it’s advisable to find an experienced pediatric dentist. An adult-oriented dental practice may make your child apprehensive, while the office of a pediatric dentist will be geared toward being child-friendly.

A pediatric dentist will have undertaken a further two years of study after gaining their dentistry degree. This equips them with the special skills – including child psychology – necessary to provide the best treatment for young patients.

Look for a pediatric dental practice with a strong emphasis on preventive care such as comprehensive dental examinations, teeth cleaning, fluoride treatments and dental sealants

Oral Habits to Discourage in Your Children

One habit you need to discourage in your kids is munching on things other than food. Babies typically love to suck their thumbs and chew on things like teething rings. However, if habits like this continue as your child gets older, long-term dental damage may occur.

Hard objects such as ice can break teeth and are also a choking hazard for young children. Other negative oral habits include chewing on pencils and pens, which can result in damaged or badly spaced teeth.

An overload of sugary snacks and drinks and acidic foods and beverages can quickly lead to cavities in children’s teeth.