10 Habits to Teach Your Kids for Better Adult Oral Health
Helping your children to adopt a good oral hygiene routine is probably one of the best things you can do for their lifelong general health. The quality of your child’s health as they grow is deeply connected to their oral hygiene. Without being taught good dental care from a young age, children run the risk of developing a whole host of serious ailments later in life, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus and other systemic related illnesses.
The lessons you teach your children today set the foundations for their entire lives. Therefore, in order to start your children out on a positive and healthy path, we contacted Sanam Khosrawi, a dental hygienist in the multilingual dental practice Lassus Tandartsen based in Amsterdam, for advice. According to her, it is never too early to start practicing good oral hygiene with your child. Here are the ten dental care habits she recommends you teach your children in order to promote good adult dental health:
1) Bring your child to the dentist from two years of age
There is a Dutch proverb which, when roughly translated, says: Learned when young is done when old! This is especially the case when trying to instill in your child the importance of visiting the dentist.
From the time your child turns two years old, regular visits to the dentist or the dental hygienist should be made. By this age, children’s neonatal teeth will have begun growing. Not only will this ensure that your child’s teeth are looked after by a professional from an early age, it also helps to build a positive relationship between your child and the dentist.
2) Brush your child’s teeth for them
It is only natural that you will want to encourage and nurture your child’s independence. However, when it comes to brushing their teeth, this is one time you should continue to do things for your little one. Due to their lack of motor skills, you should brush your child’s teeth for them until they are at least ten years old. Only then can you be certain that each and every tooth is brushed to the correct standards required for lifelong healthy teeth. Once your child begins brushing for themselves, it’s also wise to assist as brushing teeth can still be a difficult task for them.
3) Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
As with adult teeth, brushing your child’s teeth once a day will only remove up to 45 percent of bacteria. Therefore, children’s teeth should be brushed twice a day to ensure that bacteria has been sufficiently removed. Due to a thinner enamel cap, children’s neonatal teeth are weaker than adult teeth. By using a good quality toothpaste that contains fluoride, your child’s teeth and gums will have extra protection from bacteria.
4) Use the correct amount of fluoride for each child
As mentioned, fluoride provides essential extra care for your children’s young teeth. However, their age will determine the correct volume of fluoride to be used:
- Children aged 0-12 months: Brush once a day with infant toothpaste. Infant toothpaste does not contain fluoride.
- Children aged 2-4 years: Brush twice a day with a toothpaste that contains 500-750ppm of fluoride. Only a toothpaste specifically designed for children will contain this low amount.
- Children aged 5+ years: Brush twice a day with a toothpaste containing 1,000-1,500ppm of fluoride. This could be a either an adult or children’s toothpaste.
5) Find the right time to brush teeth
Once again, it’s been another long day of school runs, meal times, games and tantrums. Both children and parents will no doubt be exhausted once bedtime arrives. As any parent can attest, once a child gets too tired their cooperation can begin to run out. That’s perfectly understandable. A great way to combat this is to start your child’s teeth brushing routine early in the evening.
6) Set out parental roles and stick to them
Children crave structure and routine. As parents, it is your job to create the consistency they need. Clear assigning of parental roles will help structure your little one’s day and also ensures no task is left undone, such as brushing their teeth.
7) Maintain a good nutritional routine
Our saliva has a protective function and works to neutralise the acidity in our mouths, which spikes after eating. However, this process takes time and frequent or irregular eating disrupts it. Dental experts recommend no more than five nutrition moments in a day for children. This equates to three main meals and two snacks.
But it is not just about frequency. Because the enamel on your child’s teeth is much weaker than on yours, what they eat plays a much larger role in their dental health. As much as possible, try to avoid sugary foods and drinks. However, as almost all food contains sugars of some sort, it is best not to feed children within an hour of their bedtime tooth-brushing routine. This helps to preserve their thin enamel for longer.
8) Know what is good to drink
Another great lifelong health benefit you can pass along to your children is to educate them to drink water, tea and only sometimes freshly pressed juices or smoothies. As a treat, you can have an arrangement with your child where they can choose their own beverage once or twice a week. However, as with certain foods, try as much as possible to avoid sugary or fruity drinks which will be quite harmful on your child’s teeth.
9) Make healthy food choices
There are many small adjustments parents can make to improve the quality of the food they give their kids. When making sandwiches, for example, avoid sweet filings like jam or chocolate spread and instead use sandwich meats or cheese.
While fruit is good for your child’s overall health, it can be harmful to teeth. So, this too should be eaten in moderation. Due to the time it takes for saliva to neutralise the acidic environment, it’s better for their teeth to have just one instance of consuming fruit or sugar per day rather than several.
10) Oral hygiene can be fun
Children love when you make a game of things. If you can make brushing their teeth fun, it is more likely to have a long-lasting impact. Here are some tips for making your child’s dental hygiene more fun:
Let them choose their own toothbrush and toothpaste. This makes them feel more in control of the process. And let’s face it, children love to feel like they have a little control over their lives.
- There are plenty of educational cartoons and helpful kids’ videos online that talk about oral hygiene in a child-friendly way.
- Find books that address the subject of dental hygiene for children and read them with your child before bedtime.
- Let your child brush your teeth after you have brushed theirs.
- Reward your children for their good oral hygiene with a gold star on a chart or another such (sugar-free) prize.
- To encourage your children to brush for a full two minutes every time, you can use a timer or play their favourite two-minute song to make a game out of the process.
According to the experts in Lassus Tandartsen, the main goal is to teach your child about the benefits of brushing teeth rather than making it just another mandatory chore. By explaining to your child how brushing their teeth will make them beautiful and white, how their breath will smell nice and minty and how sugary food and drink affects their teeth, they will more deeply understand the importance of good oral hygiene. When taught young, these lessons will have a lifelong impact on their dental and general health.