Oral hygiene for Kids: Starting a routine early
Even though our second set of teeth comes in later in childhood, milk teeth are still important to care for. Not only do you want to prevent cavities and other problems, but taking care of baby teeth is good practice for looking after your adult teeth. Once they have come in, you don’t get another chance with a new set of teeth. Until your child can take care of their own teeth, you need to do it for them. As they grow up, children need to learn good oral hygiene so that they can look after their first set of teeth and then their adult teeth.
If you want to get off to a good start with your child’s oral hygiene, take a look at these tips on oral hygiene for kids.
Caring for Your Baby’s First Teeth
Your baby’s teeth will start to come in at around six months’ old, and it’s never too soon to start taking care of them. In fact, you can start dental hygiene for kids even before your baby’s first tooth comes in. After feeding, you can wipe their gums with a soft cloth to remove bacteria. Once teeth have started to break through, you should start brushing them twice a day with a soft brush. Baby toothbrushes are the right size and softness to make it easier. (Like this one)
You can use a fluoride toothpaste, but you should only use a tiny amount – no more than the size of a grain of rice. Children’s toothpastes contain lower amounts of fluoride to make them safer for infants and children. It’s also best to take away your baby’s bottle after they have finished drinking to prevent decay. You should book a dentist’s appointment for your baby before their first birthday.
Starting a Good Routine for Toddlers
By age three, most toddlers have all of their milk teeth. You should continue brushing twice a day with a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Although your child might want to brush their own teeth, it’s best to supervise them when they’re younger. Younger children don’t have the dexterity necessary to brush their own teeth thoroughly. Brush their teeth for at least two minutes or supervise them while they brush. The NHS recommends brushing last thing at night and on at least one other occasion during the day. Although your child should spit after brushing, it’s actually best not to rinse if you want the fluoride to work.
Making Tooth Brushing Fun
Tooth brushing isn’t exactly fun for children, but it’s a necessary part of their day. If you want to avoid arguments and headaches caused by reluctant children, finding ways to make cleaning children’s teeth more fun can help. A children’s toothbrush and perhaps a fun children’s toothpaste are good to start with. (See our kids toothbrush with timer here.)
Using a timer is one way to make it a little more fun, challenging your child to brush until two minutes are up. You can download mobile apps that time your child brushing their teeth and can even turn it into a game. The Brush DJ app plays music for two minutes and has an age range selection to get information on oral hygiene for children and adults. It uses music from your device, so you can make sure you have songs that your child likes, and it’s free to download. You can also simply use an egg timer or your phone’s timer.
When Can Children Brush Their Own Teeth?
It’s important that an adult helps with cleaning kids’ teeth until they can do it alone. Advice on the age for when children can brush their own teeth varies, but the official advice from the NHS is 7 years old. While this might seem high, it takes a while for children to develop the dexterity and hand-eye coordination needed to properly brush their teeth. Children can brush their own teeth before this age, but they should be supervised and you should check to see if they have done a thorough job. After age 7, it’s still a good idea to check and make sure they brush for long enough and do it properly.
Helping Children to Brush Properly
To help your child to brush their teeth properly, you can guide their hand as they brush to show them what to do. You can also demonstrate by brushing your teeth at the same time or give instructions. The most important thing is that you help your child to do a good job and you know they have brushed well.