Many of my patients know that I became a proud father in the Spring of 2013. I now can list childcare as one of my growing specialties. In all seriousness, dental care for kids really is an important part of general health of your little one, which needs to start from infancy. Here are key success factors for long term dental care.
Smart dental hygiene should begin at birth. One of the most important factors that come into play when keeping up with great dental care for kids is leading by example from the beginning. At birth, it is crucial that parents begin to take care of their children’s teeth by wiping the gums with a soft and damp washcloth after feeding. The routine should continue as the child grows and inherently the child will also become accustomed to brushing teeth.
Baby bottles are a leading cause of decay with toddlers
Getting little ones to have a nap is tough, but we would recommend not putting your infant or older child down with a bottle of juice, formula or milk. The sugar from liquids will cling to your baby’s teeth, feeding bacteria that can trigger tooth decay. If you must give your child a bottle to take to bed, make sure it contains only water.
Keep it positive
We recommend that the first visit to the dentist should be completed at age 3. Children and even some adults have a fear of the dentist because there can be a misconception that they will be leaving with something wrong. This usually occurs when parents instill the fear of a horrifying dental procedure happening when their children don’t want to brush their teeth.
So how do we turn the first dental check up into a positive experience? There’s an app for that! Kids are the biggest users of tablets these days, and there are lots of free games kids can play that feature them in the role as the dentist. You can download Dentist office or Little Dentist at the app store (Android users can find Dentist Office and Little Dentist at the Google Play store). While fear is a powerful motivator at times, using positive reinforcement will make the daily routine more enjoyable for everyone and the visit to the dentist far less fearsome.
Before heading to the dentist for the first time, children should know where they are going and what they will be doing at the dentist. Talk them through the experience; let them know they will be seeing a dentist, what the dentist’s role is and what they will be checking for. Being honest and informative at an early age will help reduce a child’s anxiety around future visits.
Lead by example
When children develop their motor skills, they are ready to brush on their own – but with supervision of course. Around the tender toddler age, the parent can begin to lead by example as this is an extremely influential age for children. The parent must make it a habit to go to the bathroom together in the evening to brush and floss teeth. It can be a fun and bonding experience for both the parent and child. A rule of thumb for brushing teeth adequately is to continue brushing for 2 minutes in the morning and before going to bed at night. As cited by the Canadian Dental Association, it’s recommended that parents assist teeth brushing and flossing with their children until the age of 7.
Make it fun
There are tons of products out on the market that allow children to have fun and stay distracted while brushing their teeth. For example: the talking toothbrush, flavoured fluoride, and the endless options of cartoon or Disney themed cleaning products. Go with whatever works.
Hopefully parents find these tips helpful.
Dr. Harry Sangha is a Vancouver dentist providing family and cosmetic dental care services. We are conveniently located in Kitsilano in the Jericho Village complex.