Proper oral hygiene habits for kids begin when they are still babies. Here, our West Kelowna dentists share the reasons why it's important to teach children these habits early and to always reinforce them.
Oral Hygiene for Infants (up to age 2)
Good oral hygiene starts before your baby’s first teeth have even started to erupt through the gum line – in order for healthy teeth to grow the gums need to be healthy. When children are approximately six months of age, their first teeth (generally the lower front teeth) will start to emerge.
This is how you should be caring for a baby’s gums and teeth:
- After feeding, wipe the baby’s gums with a soft washcloth to remove bacteria, which cause tooth decay.
- Limit soother use to nap time or bedtime starting at one or two years old.
- Once teeth begin to arrive, brush twice daily with a grain-sized amount of toothpaste on a soft-bristled toothbrush.
- Book your baby’s first dental appointment before their first birthday or after his or her first baby tooth has come in - whichever arrives first.
Oral Hygiene for Kids (aged 3 to 9)
During these years when your child is growing there is a lot that happens, and it's essential that their oral hygiene plan keeps up. By the time your child is three years of age all of their baby (primary) teeth should be in and will begin falling out when they are approximately six years old when their adult (permanent) teeth start coming in. Children should have most of their permanent teeth when they are thirteen.
Here are some age-appropriate oral care lessons for children aged three and up:
- Choose a special brush and toothpaste. Make brushing fun by choosing a brightly coloured, soft-bristled toothbrush and flavoured toothpaste your child loves (use a pea-sized amount).
- Brush and floss together. Kids love copying adults, so take advantage of this by having them watch you brush and floss while explaining the process. Build good habits by starting to floss once a day when teeth touch (around 6 years of age).
- Teach the importance of diet for healthy teeth. For excellent oral hygiene, calcium-rich foods like green vegetables, cheese, and yogurt are key.
- Limit sugary foods, fruit juices, and soda, which get stuck in the crevices of kids’ teeth and become a breeding ground for bacteria.
Oral Hygiene for Pre-Teens (aged 10 to 12)
As kids enter their pre-teen years and grow more independent and active, their dental health needs become more similar to adults. At this age:
- Continue regular dental visits.
- Remind your pre-teen to drink water, and keep your fridge full of healthy snacks.
- Discourage tobacco use. Not only are smoking and tobacco terrible for your lungs, but tobacco can also lead to many diseases, such as gum disease and oral cancers.
- Remind them how great a healthy, white smile looks. Appeal to appearance-conscious pre-teens by reminding them that maintaining excellent oral health will keep their teeth strong and their smile white.