February is National Children’s Dental Health Month! This is a great opportunity to teach children the importance of proper dental care, and how important it is to their overall health.
Here are some of the most important dental habits kids should learn:
Two Minutes, Twice a Day
The fundamentals of brushing are simple enough for us as adults—but for kids it can be a little confusing. The ADA advises us to keep it simple for the kiddos and focus on the phrase “2×2” — brush for two minutes, twice a day. It’s a catchy phrase that’s easy for them to remember and associate with brushing their teeth. Keeping your little ones focused for a solid two minutes on brushing their teeth can be a bit of a challenge. Singing the birthday song while they brush will help keep their attention — or other ideas include: setting the timer on your phone and letting them watch while it counts down to the end or you playing a short video on your phone as your child brushes.
Proper Brushing Tips
1. First, make sure you’re using a soft-bristled toothbrush. If it’s too hard or rough it could hurt their mouths. You also want to make sure you’re using a small head toothbrush that’s perfect for your little one’s mouth—too big and they could choke.
2. Toothpaste is important—always use toothpaste with fluoride in it. You might consider letting them choose a flavor they like—making some small choices makes them feel empowered and gives them a sense of pride in brushing their teeth, which is a great thing!
3. Next, depending on the age of your child, you may have to do this for them or supervise until age 7 or so—but you want to hold the brush at an angle and make small circles around each of the teeth. Starting with the outside of each tooth—working your way around from the top teeth to the bottom teeth—and then brush the top of each tooth, and finally the inside of the teeth.
Remember, “2×2”–do this for two minutes, twice per day! Have them spit and not swallow. Here’s a fun poster from Colgate that you can print out and share with your children to remind them of the important steps to brushing.
Remember to Floss
Flossing is another important, daily habit to teach your children as a part of their dental health. You can begin this somewhere between the ages of two and six, when their teeth have grown more closely together. Flossing can be somewhat challenging with smaller children—but it is important that you do this once per day. Until they are old enough and have the dexterity to do so, you will need to do most of this for them. Around age ten, they should be able to do this on their own.
See The Dentist!
By your child’s first birthday, he should see a dentist. Regular checkups allow you and your dentist to be proactive about your child’s dental health and avoid issues such as cavities or gum disease later in life. If you haven’t already done so, schedule your child’s dental appointment. They should see the dentist every six months for regular cleanings.