Dental hygiene tips & tricks for kids

blog – Dental hygiene tips & tricks for kids

At Smiles In Motion Pediatric Dentistry, we provide patient-centered care that makes visiting the dentist a positive experience for children and parents alike. While we love to see our patients for regular hygiene visits (we really do!), most pediatric dental hygiene happens at home.

Whether your child is an infant or toddler who depends on you for their oral care or a teen who wants to handle it on their own (but may still need a parental push now and then), we do everything we can to arm you with pediatric dental hygiene tips that help keep their smile healthy.

The pediatric dentistry experts

How often should my child see the dentist? Why does my child get so many cavities? When should kids be able to brush their teeth on their own? You can count on Smiles In Motion Pediatric Dentistry for children’s dental hygiene tips that answer these questions and many more.

With 2-3 additional years of specialized training beyond dental school in the unique needs of infants, young children, and teens, including patients with special needs, the board-certified dentists at Smiles In Motion Pediatric Dentistry are ready to care for your child’s teeth through every stage of childhood.

Children’s dental hygiene starts early

  • Every child should see a pediatric dentist by the age of one, or as soon as their first baby tooth emerges.
  • It’s all about prevention–bringing your child to the dentist at a young age allows any developing issues to be identified and treated as early as possible.
  • Early visits build confidence and help young kids get used to visiting the dentist. The friendly and experienced team at Smiles in Motion knows how to help kids (and nervous parents) feel calm and comfortable.

It begins with brushing

  • Even brand-new babies need their mouths cleaned! The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends wiping your baby’s gums and teeth (when they emerge) with a soft washcloth or baby toothbrush using a smear or rice-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
  • From ages 3 to 6, use a pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste to prevent decay as your child’s teeth grow and change.
  • Most children can start brushing their teeth on their own by the time they enter elementary school. Until then, we recommend helping out your little one!
  • Your child should brush twice a day for two minutes each time, preferably after breakfast and before bedtime. Use back-and-forth, up-and-down, and circular motions to ensure a thorough cleaning.
  • Encourage your child to brush their tongue and gums as well. Bacteria and plaque linger on soft tissues in the mouth, so keeping their tongue and gums clean is essential to oral hygiene and good breath.
  • Be sure to use a soft-bristled toothbrush that won’t irritate your child’s sensitive teeth and gums. You can make it more fun by letting your child pick out their own toothbrush–perhaps one with bright colors or their favorite cartoon character. Whatever it takes to make them excited about brushing their teeth! We also recommend switching out their toothbrush or electric brush head every 3-4 months or sooner if your child has been sick.

Flossing facts

  • Your child should floss at least once a day. It’s best to floss at bedtime so your child can remove any food particles that are caught in their teeth. Smiles In Motion Pediatric Dentistry and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommend that parents and caregivers help with flossing until at least age 8.
  • If your child has a hard time using traditional floss, floss picks are a kid-friendly option (some even come in animal shapes!).

Eat tooth-friendly nutrients

  • The adage is true: you are what you eat. Foods that are rich in calcium like milk and other dairy products, broccoli, and leafy green vegetables help your child build strong teeth and bones.
  • If your child is lactose-intolerant or “vegetable-adverse” (as a lot of kids are), ask your child’s doctor about calcium supplements.
  • Many other vitamins–including vitamin D, copper, zinc, potassium, iodine, and iron–also contribute to the health of your child’s teeth.

Skip the sugar

  • Many parents ask themselves, “Why does my child get so many cavities?” Too often, the answer is sugary drinks. Most fruit juices are loaded with extra sugar–often just as much as soda. Sports drinks, lemonade, sweet tea, juice, and chocolate or strawberry milk all contain extra sugar and should be avoided.
  • Hydration is key to your child’s overall health! Kids ages 6 and up should aim to drink at least 8 glasses of water per day vs. sweet or acidic drinks.
  • If your child craves the sweetness of fruit, eating fresh fruit is a more nutritional option than juice and far kinder to their teeth.
  • Avoid sweets, starchy snacks (like crackers) and sticky treats (“fruit” snacks, raisins, and gummy vitamins). Low sugar full-fat yogurt, white milk, cheese, applesauce, and mixed nuts are great snack options.
  • We are all human! We understand that sometimes your child will have drinks and foods that aren’t tooth-friendly. Make sure they brush thoroughly afterwards.

Chew sugarless gum (once your child is old enough)

Chewing gum stimulates the flow of saliva, which helps remove bacteria from your child’s teeth.

Gum that is sweetened with sugar only feeds this bacteria, causing plaque build-up and tooth decay.

Always opt for gum sweetened with xylitol, a natural sugar that helps reduce cavities more than other sweeteners.

And of course, always chew carefully to avoid choking! According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the recommended age for chewing gum is four years old and up.

Fluoride for the win

  • Fluoride, a naturally occurring mineral that helps strengthen tooth enamel, plays a vital role in children’s dental hygiene. Your Smiles In Motion pediatric dentist can administer fluoride treatments to help prevent tooth decay and cavities.
  • Your child can start receiving fluoride treatments as soon as their first tooth appears.
  • If your water supply at home is not fluoridated–for example, if your water comes from a well or your child prefers bottled water–ask us about supplement options.

Prevent decay with sealants

  • Dental sealants are another way to prevent tooth decay in your child’s permanent teeth. Sealants only take minutes to apply, but the benefits last for years.
  • While fluoride strengthens their enamel against tooth decay, sealants prevent food from getting stuck in the tiny grooves on the surface of your child’s teeth.
  • For maximum effectiveness, sealants should be applied to each set of molars as soon as they erupt – which typically begins around age six or seven.

Get regular cleanings

  • Regular cleanings–usually every six months–help remove the plaque build-up that can lead to tooth decay and cavities.
  • Focus on the positives of each visit and try not to share your personal fears or negative feelings about going to the dentist.
  • Catching dental issues early means that your board-certified Smiles In Motion pediatric dentist can treat the problem right away and hopefully prevent more serious issues in the future.

Schedule your appointment today

Want to learn more tips and tricks to protect your child’s ever-changing smile? Visit us at Smiles In Motion Pediatric Dentistry, a top pediatric dentist in Wisconsin. From the moment you walk into our office, you and your child will be treated like family.

We can’t wait to meet you! To schedule an appointment, contact Smiles In Motion Pediatric Dentistry today.