As adults, most of us take knowing how to brush and floss our teeth for granted. However, as parents it’s our responsibility to teach our children excellent brushing and flossing habits that they can take into adulthood and that will help them to enjoy great oral health and a functional, beautiful smile for years to come.
To help make sure that you are teaching your child healthy tooth habits, we’ve put together some top pediatric dentist recommendations for brushing and flossing.
It’s not just adult teeth that need to be brushed to remove the plaque that causes dental decay and gum disease. Just like ours, our children’s teeth develop plaque and unless it is removed, they can develop cavities and problems with their gums. Brushing is the best way to remove plaque, and it should be done at least twice every day, for at least two minutes every time.
You can and should start brushing your child’s teeth as soon as they erupt. When this happens can vary based on your individual child, but most children cut their first tooth when they are around 6 months old.
Brushing your child’s teeth will be a lot simpler if you have the right tools for the job. Choose a child-sized toothbrush with soft bristles so that you don’t damage their gums. And use a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste, since your child will almost certainly swallow some. As they get older, you can increase the amount of toothpaste slightly, going up to a pea-sized amount when they are aged 2, and a regular amount once they reach 5 years old. Work the toothbrush carefully across their teeth, paying special attention to wear the teeth meet the gums.
Flossing is just as important as brushing. That’s because flossing removes plaque that is located in places where a toothbrush can’t reach, such as the tiny gaps between the teeth and under the gums. As well as helping to remove plaque, flossing also removes any debris that may be stuck between the teeth or under the gums, polish the surfaces of your child’s teeth and keeps their breath smelling fresh.
When you teach or show your child how to floss, you should make sure that you work methodically across the teeth from one side of the mouth to the other, flossing every gap and crevice. Initially, most children try and protest, but it’s important to get them used to the technique and the routine. This is the best way to help your child develop a consistent flossing habit early on that they can take into adulthood.
Flossing should ideally start as soon as your child has two teeth next to one another. Since children’s teeth all erupt at different times, it’s impossible to say exactly when this will be, but usually it is when they are between two and three years of age. Unsurprisingly, at this age you will need to floss your child’s teeth for them until they get the hang of it, which is usually around the age of 9 or 10. But you don’t have to use conventional floss – there are alternatives.
In addition to conventional tape or string floss, there are also different tools available that you and your child may find easier. These include pre-threaded flossers and floss holders, dental floss sticks (which have a handle to hold), interdental brushes and water flossers/oral irrigators. Your pediatric dentist will be happy to help you find the variety that best suits your child’s needs.
For more advice on brushing and flossing your child’s teeth, call Reaves Dental in Utica, New York at 315-736-0139 to schedule an appointment.