Should Your Child Do More Than Just Brush and Floss?
As an adult, your oral care routine tends to remain fairly static for a large part of your life. Brush and floss. Rinse, perhaps, if you’re fond of it. And, unless you need prosthetics, that’s about all you’ll ever do. But, what about your kids? Toddlers? Adolescents? What sort of routine should they follow? Is it the same as yours? And, should it change from time to time? Since it’s February, and Children’s Dental Health month is upon us, let’s take a quick dive into “what’s-what” from toddlers to teens when it comes to oral care.
Use a warm washcloth or gauze pad to wipe your child’s gums after feedings. While most infants don’t begin sprouting teeth until around month six, you’ll still want to keep their gums free of oral bacteria that can develop from normal feeding.
Before your child’s first birthday, visit the dentist for an initial check-up
Around month six, and with the arrival of a child’s first teeth, ask your dentist if it’s the right time to start tooth brushing. For tips on how to take this not-so-fun first step in oral care, check out our article on toddler tooth-brushing training tips!
By this age, your children will be brushing like a mad person. Be sure they learn not to brush too hard. Teach by example, and they’ll keep this good habit their entire lives.
Once a child starts to have teeth that touch, you can introduce flossing. This is extremely variable, and not really related to age, so work with your dentist on this one.
Begin experimenting with disclosing tablets so your child can see how effective their brushing is as they learn to wield a brush on their own.
Brushing and flossing should be the norm by this time in a child’s life. Experiment with a variety of floss options to find one that works for your child. Rotate between floss picks as well, to what works for your kids.
Once a child learns to spit (this time varies widely) an alcohol mouth rinse could be used if warranted. Ask your dentist, but at this age, there isn’t often a need.
Everything changes when kids become teenagers. Orthodontic appliances of all sorts come into play, and oral care can start to seem like a burden. Kids also start consuming high carbohydrate and acidic beverages, and some experiment with tobacco products, so brushing and flossing are obviously required, and mouthwashes can be used particularly for kids with braces.
Proper prosthetic care is important to keep one’s mouth smelling and feeling fresh, so, yes … brushing the retainer becomes part of the routine.
Once again disclosing tablets are a good thing to play around with, because with orthodontics it’s difficult to clean everywhere.
Aggressive brushing at this time can contribute to early gum loss because of the physical interference of braces, and lesser area to maneuver in small mouths, so be sure your kids are getting up-to-date lessons on brushing technique from their dentist.
So, as you can see, setting an oral care routine for your little ones is mostly about prepping them for brushing, the middle years are about getting them into the habit of doing things on their own, and (to a degree) the teenage years are, at least a little bit a fallback to having to be a bit of a watchdog on your kids behalf. They’ll gladly, and sometimes vehemently disagree with you as to how to take care of their teeth … your fun is in learning how to encourage, support and provide foresight without being too much of a parent while doing it! And, we all know how easy that is, right?!