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Good Dental Care for Kids of All Ages

In Your Guest Writers, Your Health on September 5, 2010 at 7:55 PM

by Kelly Wilson

of

  Teaching Resource Center

Our healthy, bright adult smiles begin with good oral hygiene during our childhood years. Here are simple tips to make kids of any age enthusiastic about taking care of their teeth.

Build a Basic Routine

Teaching kids about their teeth can start when they’re babies, by rubbing a clean cloth over their gums after feeding. Once teeth appear, use a small toothbrush in the morning and the evening to help keep teeth clean. Toothpaste isn’t necessary at this stage, but there are special kinds for young children to help them get used to the idea of using it. Another important habit to incorporate is daily fluoride, if you live in an area that requires a supplement.

As your children become preschoolers, the habit of taking care of teeth has been firmly established. Your kids will know that in your family, teeth are brushed twice a day with soft-bristled toothbrushes that are replaced every three months. Floss can also be introduced at this stage, cleaning out plaque from in-between teeth.

Even as kids grow older and start school, they’ll need help brushing and flossing correctly in order to take proper care of their teeth.

Brushing Can Be Fun!

There’s a lot to pay attention to when it comes to taking care of their teeth, and kids aren’t necessarily known for their patience. To get teeth shiny and clean, we need to spend two to three minutes brushing all sides of them. I have found that taking turns with my children during teeth-brushing time helps keep them on-task, as well as singing verses from their favorite songs. Try using the ABC song to help kids keep brushing longer, singing it through more than once.

Modeling and discussion through play is also a great way to help children process a healthy-teeth habit. To help small children especially, find a doll and have your child “brush” the doll’s teeth. Have your child talk about what he/she is doing, and review the basics about how to brush properly. Research picture books and DVD’s at your local library which reinforce the basics of good oral hygiene.

Explain Why

Older kids will respond to reasonable explanations when it comes to taking care of their teeth. They especially need to know that there are long-term consequences if they don’t.

My boys are eight and five years old, and enjoy pretending that they’re Tooth Superheroes. They love to hear about how bacteria have parties on their teeth after they eat, building plaque that turns to acid. It’s the acid that eats away at their teeth, rotting them and making them fall out. My boys must fight this plaque using their Superhero Tools, which include (of course) toothbrushes, floss and fluoride.

This explanation might work for your kids too, but if it doesn’t, find one that helps explain why taking care of their teeth is important.

Get Help from the Dentist

Children, like adults, need to visit the dentist every six months for regular cleanings and checkups. Take children to the dentist as soon as you’d like. We started visiting the dentist when our children were three years old to get them comfortable with the idea, and official dentist visits with exams and cleaning started when they turned four years old.

During these visits, the dentist and dental hygienist review with my kids the best ways to brush and floss their teeth. Sometimes hearing information from other authoritative sources makes more of an impact on children – I know it works with mine! The repetition and practice will help my kids have healthy teeth for years to come!

Kelly Wilson is a mom and freelance writer with a bright, healthy smile thanks to a local dentist like this. Contact her at,  Kelly.wilson@trcabc.com

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