I often hear from patients: "I wish I had taken better care of my teeth when I was young". Or, "if I would have taken better care of my teeth when I was young, I wouldn't need to wear these dentures". Or, "I wish I had someone telling me to take care of my teeth". Like with all good habits in life, taking care of teeth should start early.
Brushing teeth is a repetitive process that could become boring, so it is down to our skills and patience to help our children introduce this in their daily routine. We need to teach them the value of their teeth in a non-judgemental way, giving strong motivation for everyday toothbrushing.
The earlier, the better: start as soon as the first baby tooth breaks through.
Before 3 years old, choose a small attractive toothbrush and use just a smear of toothpaste. Do it twice daily and do not allow your child to eat or drink anything apart from water after that. Chances are that some of the children will be initially reluctant to let their parents brush their teeth, but you have to persevere.
The routine of allocating time for tooth brushing twice daily starts developing early in life.
Once your child has a full set of teeth, brush their teeth for a good two minutes. Anything that allows you to count the time is helpful. You can use a timer or a little song that your child enjoys, making sure that the song is, at a minimum, two minutes long.
Try using a circular movement for every visible surface of your child’s teeth. Gently, making sure you have not missed any tooth, ask your child to keep their mouth opened like a hippopotamus or like a lion. Try carefully controlling the lateral pressure to avoid traumatizing sensitive gums.
Always encourage your child to brush his teeth. However, do not forget to check their brushing and do not tell them off if not done correctly. Remember that they instinctly brush what they can see: the front teeth.
As a rule, just use the tooth paste recommended for your child’s age, mainly because the recommended fluoride varies with the age. Fluorides help prevent dental caries and they should be at least 1000ppm up to the age of 3, over 1000ppm between 3 and 6 and 1350-1500 for the children over 6 years old.
Adult toothpastes could have a taste too strong for children, so these are not good options for them. Get your child involved when choosing his toothpaste. Choose a good quality one with their favourite flavour and have in mind that the flavour of the chosen toothpaste plays an important role in encouraging the development of a good oral care routine for life.
It is preferable to use a soft or ultra-soft toothbrush. If your local supermarket does not stock them, then go online. Sensitive gums and erupting children’s teeth need a controlled lateral pressure to help them to feel comfortable during brushing.
You get to choose among a wide variety of toothbrushes, with bright colours and recognizable characters, manual or battery operated. If you involve your child in choosing the toothbrush, they will be more excited about brushing.
Yes, this will set a good example and helps your child to develop strong beneficial oral care habits early in life. Toothbrushing will become another routine for your child, just like getting dressed or eating. Also, it will help your child understand how long a tooth brushing should take and therefore repeating it twice daily. You can brush together - children are often willing to copy adults in what they are doing but do not forget after that to check the way they brushed and to brush their teeth properly. Patience is important as we do not expect a perfect result after they have seen it once. Day-by-day, and tooth-by-tooth, your child will learn to brush even if at some point the boredom and the repeatability will make them want to abandon it.
You can play a little game, something like who can brush better or longer. This is just a suggestion, but any little competition could engage your child better. Or you can listen to a song that your child enjoys and is minimum 2 minutes long. Invent a rewarding system with points or stars. Give your child a star for a well brushed teeth and an award after 10 starts earned.
Even if there is no straight answer to that, a visit to the dentist with your child is of paramount for many reasons. Firstly, a dentist will go through a daily diet, providing advice that will allow keeping teeth healthy. They will check your daily toothbrushing routine and eventually, will teach you how to teach your child to brush his teeth. A dentist will also check your child’s teeth and sort them out if needed. Prevention is another key element the dentists are focussed on. Fluoridation is as important as the healthy diet enhancing the tooth structure that way not to get decays in the future and it could be done with fluoride varnish and fissure sealants.
The age of the child to start the dentist visits varies depending on how cooperative your child is. It is not unusual for children under 5 years old to behave in the dentist’s chair better than some adults.
It is not a good idea to give your child the option of not brushing his teeth because he may consider it a choice as good as the other one of brushing the teeth. Choices could be given as to which toothpaste to use or which toothbrush, a battery operated or a manual one.