While sealants and other treatments from your dentist can help prevent tooth decay, there are lots of things you can do at home to promote good oral health. Learning proper brushing and flossing techniques at an early age is crucial in preventing advanced tooth decay later on. Certain nutritional choices can also help limit the number of times teeth are in contact with sugary or acidic foods. Changing home habits could save your child an extra trip to the dentist.
Our team at AOMS Pediatric Dentistry wants to make your child’s dental care as easy as possible. Improving the oral health of kids in the Amarillo community is our goal, which is why we provide lots of resources for proper home care and hygiene techniques on this website. Check out the information below to learn more about hygiene techniques and nutritional choices that your kids will be able to stick to.
Brushing & Flossing
When your child is too young to brush their teeth, it’s important for you to brush your child’s teeth (preferably twice a day for at least 30 seconds at a time). As they get older, you should let them brush their teeth and increase the amount of brushing time until they reach the recommended two minutes, twice per day.
Sometimes convincing preschoolers and older children to brush and floss their teeth can seem difficult, but there are lots of different techniques you can use to make oral hygiene fun and easy for your child.
- Lead by example. Brush your teeth at the same time as your child: once after breakfast and once before bedtime. Seeing you brush your teeth and floss will encourage your child to do the same.
- Watch your children brush their teeth until they are old enough to do it alone. Kids usually need some guidance until they are eight years old. It’s important to make sure they brush all surfaces of their teeth thoroughly. Let your child brush their teeth first; then an adult should go back and brush for them. As their permanent teeth erupt, make sure they brush further back.
- Make it a fun story. Come up with a creative way to explain the tooth brushing process, such as brushing away sugar bugs to keep your teeth safe, or thinking of brush strokes as train wheels that go round and round. When the train whistle sounds, the brushing is complete! Making a fun game out of dental hygiene can motivate kids and help them enjoy brushing their teeth. You can even download smartphone apps that help make brushing fun!
- Let your child choose a fun toothpaste and/or toothbrush. There are lots of toothbrush designs with fun characters, colors, and features to attract children. Letting your child pick out a new toothbrush can make them more excited to clean their teeth. Both manual and electric toothbrushes clean teeth well, so whatever gets your child motivated to brush is a good choice.
- Encourage good flossing techniques every day. Children should floss as soon as their first teeth start touching each other. After your child has mastered brushing, teach them good flossing techniques as well. Gently move the floss between the teeth and use it to scrape the sides of each tooth. Aim to floss three times a week. You can have your child lie down while you floss. Gradually work up to every other day or every day if possible.
- Use a flossing chart. Create a flossing chart with fun stickers to mark each day that your child flosses. The goal should be to get one sticker for every day of the week!
- Compliment your child. Positive reinforcement is a great way to encourage good habits such as tooth brushing and flossing. It takes time to learn new habits, and a few compliments here and there can go a long way.
- If all else fails, try a visit to your pediatric dentist. Sometimes, children just don’t want to listen to their parents. Hearing instructions from someone other than a parent can sometimes help drive an idea home for some kids. Dr. Lorra, Dr. Sean, and our team work hard to make your child’s dental visits are engaging and enjoyable.
Diet and Oral Health
A healthy, balanced diet is a great way to prevent extensive tooth decay from happening. We all know sugary foods and drinks can cause bacteria and tooth decay to form, but there are other dietary choices that cause unnecessary damage to teeth. For dietary suggestions from our experienced pediatric dentists, check out the tips below or contact our office in Amarillo, TX, for more information.
Dietary Tips for Healthy Teeth
- Limit the number of sugary beverages your child drinks, including natural sugars like those in milk and fruit juice. If possible, dilute any sugary or acidic drinks with water.
- Fill sippy cups and bottles with water (not juice or milk) when they are given to children unattended. Save juice and milk for mealtimes only.
- Don’t let your child go to bed with a bottle—this can lead to baby bottle tooth decay.
- Limit between-meal snacking when possible. Constant snacking increases the number of times teeth are in contact with food particles and bacteria.
- Be smart about starch and sugar consumption. Starchy foods, such as pretzels and crackers, can attract bacteria, just like sugars. Carbohydrates are an important part of a balanced diet, but try to limit this to meal times.
- Check nutrition labels for hidden sugar. Foods that seem healthy (e.g., yogurts, crackers, and granola bars) are often packed with sugar.
- Studies have shown that cheese (in moderation) is one of the healthiest foods for your teeth. Cheese provides important nutrients like calcium and phosphorous, which help rebuild enamel and fight plaque.
- Give kids water to drink during and after meal times to rinse food particles from their teeth.
- If your child has food or drinks with sugar or acid, have them chew a sugarless gum with xylitol (as long as they do not swallow their gum). Xylitol is a beneficial ingredient to lower your bacterial count in your mouth as well as to create saliva production.
Stop Thumb Sucking and Pacifier Habits
Sucking on thumbs, fingers, pacifiers, and other toys is a natural habit for babies and young children. When these habits get out of control, however, there can be consequences for your child’s teeth and jaws. Most children stop sucking thumbs, pacifiers, and other objects when they are two to four years old. When children continue these habits for prolonged periods of time, the teeth can start to grow in at an angle, and the development of the jaw can be affected, resulting in an anterior open bite or a V-shaped palate, depending on the intensity of the habit.
Are pacifiers safer than thumb sucking?
Pacifiers affect the teeth in the same basic way as finger and thumb sucking; however, breaking a pacifier habit is often much easier than breaking a thumb-sucking habit. Begin reducing pacifier use around 18 months and stop completely by age two to break the habit, but do not be discouraged if it takes longer!
Tips for Teething
Teething refers to the formation of new teeth as they start to come through a baby’s gums. Even though the first tooth usually won’t come in until your baby is about six months old, the teething process can begin as early as the two-month mark. Some common signs of teething are listed below:
- Chewing on solid objects
- Crankiness or irritability
- Soreness and tender gums
- Slight fever (no higher than 100 degrees F)
- Increased drooling
Most babies experience signs of teething between the ages of 3 months and 12 months. By the time your child is three years old, all 20 of their primary (baby) teeth should be grown in.
Teething can be uncomfortable for babies, and knowing how to soothe sore gums can make the teething process much easier. Below, we’ve shared some of our favorite tips to help you and your baby deal with teething pains:
- Gently rub your baby’s gums with a clean finger, spoon, or damp washcloth.
- Give your baby a cold (but not frozen) teething ring or damp washcloth to gnaw on.
- Choose teething rings that are solid rubber (liquid filled rings can break).
- If your baby is starting on solid foods, give them large chunks of cold, hard veggies to chew on (watch your child carefully to avoid choking).
- Use a clean cloth to wipe excess drool, which can irritate the skin if left to dry over and over again. Having your child wear a bib can be easy and accessible.
- Do not use teething medications that contain benzocaine or lidocaine—these ingredients can cause a rare but serious condition that reduces blood oxygen levels, according to the FDA.
For more information about teething or for advice or other recommendations, feel free to contact our office in Amarillo, TX. Also, make sure you have established a pediatric dentist for your child once the first tooth grows in. Visiting our practice early, while your baby’s mouth is still healthy, allows our doctors to determine if there are risks for tooth decay later on.