Proper dental care starts in the home, at a young age. By caring for your child’s teeth now, you are helping set him up for a lifetime of dental health.
What fun it is for us to see patients of all ages, including infants, toddlers, and their families! As a dentist and as a mom to 3 young children, these are the tips that I find most important when it comes to a young child’s oral health.
Offer Healthy Snacks
Dental decay is a common disease in young children. The rate of decay in the US is higher than it was years ago due to the popularity of sugary snacks and beverages.
Even snacks such as crackers and Goldfish (a toddler favorite!) are high in carbohydrates and tend to stick to the teeth, causing decay. Choose snacks that are high in fiber and calcium, as they help fight against decay.
- Fruits such as apples and bananas
- Cheese and yogurt
- Carrots and hummus (can used cooked carrots in younger kids)
Provide Water as the Primary Beverage
Sodas, juices, and sweet tea are very high in sugar. At Cranford Dental, we see soda as the #1 culprit of cavities in children and teens. Get your child used to drinking only water at a young age.
The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees with us– they recommend no juice before age one, and a maximum of 4 ounces of juice per day before age 4. (That’s not very much juice!)
What works best at our house is to only have juice one night a week, during our family movie night. This way it is a “treat” to our children, and they know not to ask for it other times.
Another “secret” our kids don’t know is that the “juice” we offer is either sugar-free lemonade or watered down juice, which are healthier for their teeth.
When should you start brushing your child’s teeth? As soon as they get them. Some babies get teeth at just a few months of age.
Use a soft bristle toothbrush at least twice a day to gently brush their teeth. If your child is still drinking formula or milk before bed, be sure to brush after the bottle.
At our house, Dad or I brush Liddy and Cheney’s teeth first (for about a minute), then give them the toothbrush to practice brushing on their own. Most of the time they love for us to brush their teeth, but sometimes they cry.
Even when they cry, I brush them– it’s all about creating a routine and habit.
Most children cannot brush independently until age 7 or 8. I recommend that you brush your child’s teeth until your hygienist gives you the go-ahead to allow your child to brush on her own.
Fluoride is a great and scientifically-proven defense against dental decay. It works by strengthening the enamel, making it harder for bacteria to penetrate the teeth.
Offer tap water instead of bottled, as it is often a good source of fluoride. Even some wells have naturally occuring fluoride.
I recommend a rice-size smidge of fluoride toothpaste each time your child brushes. Even if your child cannot yet spit, this small amount of fluoride is not harmful.
Cranford Dental will offer fluoride varnish at your hygiene visits. Also, some pediatricians will provide fluoride at your child’s well visit.
Establish a “Dental Home”
Small children aren’t afraid of the dentist, they are afraid of the unknown. This is why it is important to get them used to the dentist at a young age. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentists recommends you establish a “dental home” by 12 months of age.
If you bring your child to Cranford Dental before age 2, the child’s appointment will be a quick visit to familiarize him with the sights, sounds, and smells of a dental office.
At each subsequent visit as he ages, we will get him more and more comfortable with being there.
Speak Positively about the Dentist
Dental anxiety is very common in adults, but does not have to be a problem for children. Do not project your own fears of the dentist onto your children. Talk to them about how much they will love coming to the Cranford Dental. Never use words such as “pain”, “gag”, “needle”, or “hurt” when referring to dental visits.
Tell your child that coming to the dentist will be fun and will help make their teeth feel great! You can find out ahead of time which provider your child will be seeing, so that you can talk about that person for a few days before the visit.
Other Tips, Tricks, and Hacks
- Keep a toothbrush and toothpaste in more than one place– we have one for each kid in the upstairs bathroom and in the bathroom by the back door. This way we can get their teeth brushed after breakfast and before heading out the door.
- Let your kids brush while you brush– they will learn by example.
- Try several toothpastes until you find a flavor that suits your toddler. There are many creative flavors available online (example: tannerstastypaste.com)
- The toothbrush is more important than the toothpaste. If you can’t find a flavor your toddler likes, brush with plain water.
I am passionate about taking care of your children. I promise to do my best to give them a great experience at Cranford Dental. I hope these tips help you understand what you can do to give them a great dental experience at home.
Please contact me if you have any specific questions regarding your child’s dental health.
I would love to welcome you and your child to Cranford Dental!