Ideas on How to Make Oral Hygiene Fun For Kids

For some kids, brushing and flossing is like a chore that they do once in the morning and once at night. However, it doesn’t have to be this way! Making oral hygiene fun can have lasting effects and can even make kids take an interest in keeping their mouths clean and healthy.

There’s an App For That

It’s recommended that a child brushes his or her teeth for two minutes. A fun way to make sure they get the full two minutes in is to use a brushing app that plays a song for two minutes and have your child brush as long as the music is playing. Pick something they like and will make them want to stay there the entire time. A smile on their face while brushing will make the time pass faster. Also, if the song is something they really enjoy they might even look forward to the next time they get to brush.

Visits from the Tooth Fairy 

Every child is different when it comes to losing teeth.  Some kids love the idea of losing teeth because that means they are growing up!  Others don’t like losing teeth because eating can become uncomfortable until the tooth falls out.  A good way to make this fun is by using the story of the tooth fairy. Tell your child a new tooth will grow back soon but the tooth fairy will come and give some money in exchange for the tooth that has come out.  This is a great opportunity to talk about brushing and flossing.  Explain that the tooth fairy loves to see teeth in good shape so she knows that the child is doing a good job brushing and flossing.   I have had some parents say the tooth fairy does not bring money for teeth with cavities that come out!

Prize Winning Teeth 

A kids’ dentist can show children what can happen to their teeth if they don’t brush.  Some dentists even give prizes for good oral hygiene or a good visit.  If your child’s dentist doesn’t give out toys, perhaps you could find a small way to reward them for their good oral report.  A reward system, such as a brushing and flossing chart with stickers, is a great way for children to get motivated.  Then on the chart, have a spot for the six month check-ups that has a special sticker or reward to be given for a good visit.  Oral hygiene doesn’t have to be a difficult task every day.  Just by making brushing and flossing into something fun, you could see an improvement in the oral health.

How Do I Care for My Toddler’s Teeth?

Caring for toddler’s teeth can be a challenge. Although a toddler’s teeth are small, they are like the teeth of an adult and must be properly cared for in order to maintain good oral health and hygiene. These tips and guidelines will help you keep your toddler’s teeth and overall oral health in the best condition possible.

Create a Routine

Your child’s oral health starts with you. As a parent, you need to make sure you are doing your part in your child’s brushing and flossing routine because children do not develop adequate hand-eye coordination to do a good job brushing and flossing until about the ages of 8 to 10 years. The most important times a child should brush and floss his or her teeth are in the morning and before they go to bed. Creating a routine can be difficult but it’s not impossible. You will have to help your toddler each time.  It is best to let the child brush and floss first, so that way he or she gets to practice and can develop the needed hand-eye coordination to do a good job. The best way to teach your toddler how to brush his or her teeth is to lead by example. Brush your teeth the same time your toddler is brushing his or her teeth. 

Locate a Dental Office

Finding a dental office you are comfortable with is in the best interest of you and your child. A children’s dentist is the ideal dentist for your child. A general dentist can be used, but a kids’ dentist specializes in the comfort, care and health of children. When you are trying to find a dental office for your toddler, consider its location, how far it is from your home and the type of insurance that is accepted.

Schedule Regular Check-Ups

Scheduling regular check-ups is perfect preventative care for cavities, gum disease and other issues that can occur due to poor oral hygiene. By your toddler’s first birthday, your child should be seen by a kid-friendly dentist.

Ration the Juice

While it is okay to give your toddler juice, do not let them sip it for an extended period of time.  The time it takes them to drink the juice is more critical than the amount of juice they drink.  Juice can be given to your toddler each day but it is only recommended with meals.   Water or a sugar free beverage should be used for between meals or for sipping.

Teach Good Habits

Teaching your toddler good habits is the best way to prepare for the future. Teach them how to properly use a toothbrush, toothpaste and floss, and tell them why it’s important to brush and floss their teeth at least twice each day.

Kids Using Tobacco: Why Kids Smoke and the Risk of Using Tobacco

There is a number of health risks associated with smoking, yet teenagers continue to smoke and/or use smokeless tobacco. Each day, there are approximately 3900 children between the ages 12-17 smoke their first cigarette. Over 950 of them will become regular smokers and about half of them will die from smoking in adulthood. For these reasons, it is essential that children understand the dangers associated with smoking and the use of smokeless tobacco.

Why Kids Begin Smoking

There are several reasons why children may start smoking. Some of the most common reasons children may be attracted to smoking and/or chewing tobacco include:

  • To act older
  • To lose weight
  • To look cool
  • To do something dangerous
  • To satisfy curiosity
  • To appear tough
  • To feel independent
  • To win tobacco related merchandise

Signs Your Child May Be Smoking

It is essential as a parent to establish good communication with children early to make tricky issues, like smoking, easier. Giving children information about the risks associated with smoking may help to protect them from this unhealthy habit. Ask your child’s dentist to talk with them about the risks to their oral health from smoking and if you suspect your child may be using tobacco products, make sure they see a kid’s dentist as soon as possible. Warning signs your child is smoking may include:

  • Odor of smoke on their clothing
  • Bad breath
  • Frequent complaints of throat irritation
  • Coughing
  • Decrease in their athletic performance
  • Shortness of breath
  • Stained and/or yellow teeth

The Oral and Physical Health Risks of Tobacco Use

Smoking and/or using smokeless tobacco kills hundreds of people each year. Tobacco contains nicotine and several other poisonous chemicals that cause a range of diseases, including heart problems and cancer. Tobacco use can have a significant impact on the overall oral health of a child. Some of the effects of smoking and using smokeless tobacco may include:

  • Throat cancer
  • Mouth cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Bone loss
  • Tooth loss
  • Gum disease
  • Stained teeth

To help prevent your children from using tobacco products, it is important to discuss the issue in a way that doesn’t make kids fear a punishment or feel as though they are being judged. It is also important to continue talking to children about the dangers of tobacco use throughout their childhood and into adulthood. Discuss ways your child can respond to smoking and peer pressure and encourage their self-confidence, which will help protect them against peer pressure. Visit a kids’ dentist with your child for more information on the dangers of smoking and oral health.

Periodontal Disease in Kids

Periodontal disease is a growing problem among children, particularly those at the onset of puberty. Periodontal disease, sometimes referred to as gum disease, is a serious problem that can affect one’s overall health and contribute to gum, bone, and tooth loss.  

What Types of Periodontal Disease Are Common in Children?

During puberty, abrupt hormonal changes cause increased circulation to the gums, which may cause them to become more sensitive to food particles or inadequate oral hygiene. Three types of periodontal disease are common:

  • Chronic gingivitis is the most common gum disease in children. Easily avoided through brushing, flossing, and regular dental visits, chronic gingivitis can cause red and swollen gums. Sometimes the gums may bleed, particularly when flossing. If left untreated, it can progress to more serious forms of periodontal disease.
  • Aggressive periodontitis is most commonly found in teens and young adults. The condition generally affects the first molars and incisors and is characterized by a loss of alveolar bone.
  • Generalized aggressive periodontitis usually begins around puberty and is characterized by heavy plaque and calculus (tartar) build-up. If not treated, tooth loss may result.

Advice for Parents

Parents are important role models when it comes to the importance of oral hygiene and care.  By taking excellent care of your own teeth, you show your children the importance of keeping a healthy mouth.  In addition, we recommend:

  • Looking at your child’s gums and teeth for evidence of bleeding and swelling. Gums that have a bright red appearance or are visibly pulling away from the teeth are evidence of periodontal disease 
  • Encouraging an oral care routine that involves twice daily brushing and flossing early. This will pay off as your child becomes more independent and these practices remain habits
  • Ensuring that your child visits a kids’ dentist twice each year for a routine cleaning (or prophylaxis) and evaluation. This type of cleaning removes calculus (tartar) and plaque at the gum line, which can lead to gum irritation and gingivitis, thus preventing periodontal disease. 

Your kids’ dentist is your partner in oral health. Make certain you contact the office right away if you suspect your child may have the beginning signs of gum disease. Caught early, gum disease is highly treatable and permanent damage can be avoided.

Should kids use mouthwash?

Parents should always be on the lookout for ways to help their children maintain and care for their teeth and gums. Sometimes, children want to add things to the oral health regimen like using mouthwash. But how effective is this for children? What are the implications of using it, and when is the appropriate time for children to begin using mouthwash? Flossing and brushing are the best methods for preventing tooth decay, but children may develop an interest in using mouthwash to help their oral hygiene. 

Young children are not advised to use mouthwash because mouthwashes may contain alcohol or fluoride components which can have harmful effects when swallowed in large amounts. It is less likely for older kids and teenagers to ingest the products—unlike younger children, particularly below the age of six. Children between six to twelve years should be supervised by adults if they have to use mouthwash for their daily oral hygiene routine. Those under the age six should avoid using fluoride mouth wash, because they could easily swallow the fluoride components.  Excess fluoride exposure for children whose permanent teeth are not fully developed can result in fluorosis, a harmless but unsightly condition that leaves spots or streaks on the teeth.

Teenagers can use mouthwash as a breath-freshening agent and, in the process, reap the benefits of a fluoride rinse. Children who have braces are good candidates for using fluoride rinses. The rinse protects their teeth from producing acid-producing plaque bacteria that builds up under the brackets. Numerous mouth rinses contain alcohol. If alcohol content is a concern as a parent, mouthwashes with no alcohol content exist and are just as efficient for freshening breath. Children should constantly be reminded that the use of mouth rinse does not replace daily flossing and tooth brushing.  Mouthwash is just one more thing that can be added to help the preservation of a healthy smile.

Another important thing to consider is the manufacturer’s label. Precautions are outlined affirming age recommendations for use of a particular fluoride mouthwash. It is usually advisable to speak to your kid’s dentist for accurate and informed utility of any mouth rinse. Regular use of mouthwash provides additional protection against cavities as compared to those of using toothpaste alone. Such precautions will help prevent tooth decay in your children.

How to Care for your Child’s Mouth

Caring for your child’s teeth and gums is a very important daily habit that should not be overlooked. In fact, good oral hygiene starts at birth, long before your baby grows his or her first tooth – unless of course your child was born with teeth!  By practicing tooth care basics right from the start, you’re ensuring your child’s overall health by keeping their teeth and gums as healthy as possible.

How to care for a baby’s mouth

Once your baby is just a few days old, it is important to start caring for their gumsafter feedings. To do this, gently wipe their gums using a clean, wet washcloth or disposable gauze. This will help keep the bacteria and plaque from building up and causing gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) or other oral conditions. When your baby’s teeth do start to come in, you can begin using a baby-sized toothbrush. A light smear of fluoridated toothpaste can be used for children under the age of two.  You know you put the right amount of toothpaste on if you can still see the majority of the tips of the bristles.

How to care for your toddler’s mouth

Manual dexterity takes years to develop, which is why toddlers are not very coordinated with their hands.  Between the ages of 8 to 10 years is when a child finally has sufficient coordination to properly brush their own teeth. Until then, it is recommended that an adult do the brushing. If your child likes to brush his or her own teeth, then follow up and brush the teeth after your child does. A child size toothbrush and pea size amount of fluoridated toothpaste is what should be used to brush your toddler’s teeth twice a day for two minutes at a time. Don’t rush. Take your time.  It’s important that your child brushes a minimum of two minutes because the fluoride in toothpaste needs a full two minutes to help the teeth.

How to brush your child’s teeth

To effectively clean your child’s teeth and gums, hold the toothbrush at a 45 degree angle so that the bristles are aimed where the tooth and the gums meet. This will clean the area where plaque likes to build up. Also, be sure to brush all surfaces of the teeth when doing so. That means brushing the cheek surfaces of the teeth, the tongue surfaces of the teeth, and the chewing surfaces of the teeth. Don’t forget to brush the tongue as well to help with keeping the breath fresh.  The tongue is like a giant sponge that absorbs everything we eat as well the bacteria that live in the mouth.  Don’t brush too far back on the tongue so you don’t gag your child!
After brushing your child’s teeth and when they begin brushing on their own, be sure that you thoroughly wash the toothbrush after each use and replace the toothbrush every three months. Your child should also be spitting out any excess toothpaste from their mouths and not swallowing the toothpaste.

How to floss your child’s teeth

Once your child has grown enough teeth that touch, it’s time to start flossing. Be gentle by gliding the floss between the teeth until it reaches the gum line. Next, curve it around each tooth and gently rub the floss up and down on the tooth to remove plaque and food.  Flossing in a back and forth, or sawing motion, does not clean between the teeth and can damage the gums

Visit a kid’s dentist

It is important for your child to begin visiting the dentist as soon as possible. This will help the child eliminate the fear of the dentist and continually encourage proper oral hygiene.

Dental Care Resources

Finding reliable, affordable kid dentistry is a task that requires gathering information from patients and reviews. A kid’s dentist should be someone you can establish a relationship with and make your child feel comfortable.

Good hygiene practices for little children

Good oral care should begin as early as possible to stave off oral issues later on. Here are some tips that should be helpful:

·         Children under the age of two should use a light smear of fluoridated toothpaste.  You will be able to see most of the bristle tips on the brush.
·         Children age two to five, should brush with a pea-sized amount of toothpaste with fluoride. Carefully supervise them brushing so they don’t swallow the excess toothpaste.
·         It is important that your child brush his or her teeth two to three times per day so that way they form the habit of doing so, which will stick with them through life. If you feel your child cannot brush properly, you should still let them brush if they are interested in doing so, but an adult should brush for them when they are done.  Use the recommended amount of toothpaste mentioned above. When the child grows teeth that touch, you should start flossing every day.

Preparing your child for a dental visit

Prevention is the best method of avoiding dental issues later on. Prepare a list of any pain or issues your child experiences with their teeth or gums before you make the visit. Any minor issues should be treated before they become too severe. Below are some questions you can ask your child prior to seeing a dentist:

  • Do you have any pain in your mouth or teeth and how bad is it?
  • Do your gums bleed?
  • Do you get a bad taste in your mouth ever?
  • Can you breathe well when you sleep?
  • Do you grind your teeth?
  • Is your mouth very dry?

Older children may be able to answer these questions, but for younger children, as a parent, you will have to make some of these observations when you help care for your child’s teeth. Finding a trusted dentist that is dedicated to children’s oral hygiene is important to ensure the best experience possible for your child or children!

Making Tooth-brushing a Priority in Your Child’s Bedtime Routine

The bedtime routine can be challenging when dealing with small children. It’s hard to get them to settle down and focus on the job at hand – especially when that job is brushing & flossing. 

So how can a parent make sure to make tooth-brushing a priority every single night?  

Develop a Regular Routine

Kids thrive on routine.  They like to know what’s coming next.  Make bedtime a relaxing time filled with quiet rituals.

First set a definite time for bed. Not 8 to 9 p.m., but 8 o’clock sharp (or whatever time you choose).  Don’t deviate from that time, unless it is necessary.  If your child must be in bed by 8 p.m., then you should begin nighttime rituals at 7.  Most experts agree that it takes a child about an hour to get in the mood for bed.
Be sure to do your set rituals in the same order every night. For instance, begin with a light snack, take a bath, get the pajamas on, brush the teeth and read a story together. Once a child knows that it’s time to brush their teeth every night after the PJ’s are put on, it will become an ingrained habit that happens automatically without even a reminder. 

Make Brushing Fun

Giving your child an electric toothbrush or a sparkly toothpaste is a good way to entice him or her to brush.  The most important thing is finding what gets your child to brush so the routine can be established and maintained.
Here are a few simple ways to make tooth brushing every night more memorable:

  • Have a brushing contest. Stand next to your child and see who can brush the longest.  The goal is to brush for two minutes.  This ensures thorough cleaning of the teeth and gives the fluoride enough time to help remineralize the enamel.
  • Use disclosing tablets or a disclosing mouth rinse. Kids love to see what a good job they’ve done. Disclosing mouth rinse or tablets color the plaque which shows areas where they may have missed while brushing.
  • Award good behavior.  Brushing is a behavior that deserves reward. A sticker system is a great idea to motivate the little ones to brush and floss. Every time the child brushes without a hassle or without being told when it’s time to brush, place a sticker on the chart. You decide how many stickers it takes to earn a small reward.
  •  Let them gargle.  If your children are old enough, purchase some children’s mouthwash and let them finish their evening brushing with a good rinse and gargle.

Offer Lots of Praise

If there is one thing every kid loves it is praise.  Be sure to give loads of praise for a job well done.
Bedtime brushing and flossing should never be an afterthought.  If you as the parent make it a priority, so will your children –and that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

Is It Safe For My Child To Use Mouthwash?

Using mouthwash has numerous benefits: fresher breath, cleaner teeth, and to a small degree, plaque and tartar control.  But is it safe for children?

Small Children Should Steer Clear of Mouthwash and Oral Rinses

Most dental experts agree that mouthwash products should be avoided until the child reaches at least the age of six. This is about the time when they can control their swallowing reflex and spit out the wash after rinsing.  Even child-safe rinses aren’t really made to be ingested by young children.
Remember, the ingredients in these rinses can be harmful if swallowed.  

Elementary Aged Children Can Begin to Rinse

Around the age of 6, it is usually safe to begin introducing child-safe rinsing products.  Most are alcohol free and can help the child begin to establish a healthy oral care routine that will last a lifetime.  Here are some tips for helping your children use mouthwash safely:

  • Give younger children small amounts of rinse at the beginning until they are used to the process. That way if they accidentally swallow some, it will be okay.
  • Show children how to rinse and spit. Believe it or not, this isn’t always an easy concept.
  • Never use oral rinses as a substitute for brushing.  Mouthwash cannot get rid of food debris or remove plaque like brushing and flossing do.  It should be used to rinse the mouth at the end of the tooth cleaning regimen, unless it is a disclosing solution that the child is using at the beginning of the brushing routine, to see the plaque for thorough removal.

Kids with Braces Should Always Rinse

Children with braces should use mouthwash and high fluoride rinses to help keep the teeth healthy.  One of the biggest pitfalls of wearing braces is that food gets stuck in them which can lead to tooth decay. Using an antimicrobial mouthwash can help kill bacteria that produce the acid that causes cavities.  This can save your child from dental treatment and possibly needing the braces removed until better hygiene habits are formed.

Teens Love Mouthwash

Of course, teenagers are very aware of bad breath and often turn to mouthwash to help freshen the breath. This is perfectly fine, as long as they are still brushing and flossing regularly.  Bad breath is a sign of bacterial buildup in the mouth, which is often the result of poor brushing and flossing habits.  Stress this fact to your teen. While mouthwash can help to give anyone a fresher feeling mouth, it is no substitute for good oral hygiene practices. 

Which Mouthwash is Best?

One trip down the oral care aisle and you will notice quite a few oral rinses available for both children and adults.  When choosing the right one, consider these important factors:

  • How old is your child?  Younger children should only use child-approved, alcohol free rinses.
  • Do you need extra fluoride?  Fluoride based rinses can be especially helpful in fighting cavities, especially for children who live in areas that do not fluoridate the water supply.
  • Are you fighting bacteria?  If your child or teen is battling bad breath, it may be a sign that he or she has too much bacteria in his or her mouth. Using an antimicrobial rinse can help kill bacteria stuck between teeth, offering fresher breath and a healthier mouth.

Allowing children to use mouthwash rinses can be a big decision for parents.  Follow these simple suggestions to ensure that when you do make this important decision, it is the right one for your child. 

Kid’s Tooth Decay: Development and Prevention

When you become a parent, worry becomes a normal part of life. Whether it’s sending the kids off to school or worrying about the latest virus in the media, every parent manages their fear of the unknown daily. One area where parents should not worry is their children’s teeth. Teaching your young ones to make good choices about food and proper oral care goes a long way toward creating a healthy, happy human being.

Tooth decay remains a significant problem in dental care. Any kid’s dentist will tell you that it is imperative to educate yourself and your young ones about making good choices. Tooth decay begins when food containing lots of sugar and starch (foods that make up a significant portion of the American diet today) is used by bacteria in our mouth to create acids. These acids begin to slowly eat away the enamel that makes up our teeth. The loss of minerals in teeth due to these acids (demineralization) will cause tooth decay over time as teeth begin to weaken and decay.

Young children and adolescents are especially susceptible to these dangers due to their diet. Schools, fast food restaurants, and the snack aisle contain lots of opportunities to choose foods that could cause tooth decay. Sugar laden foods, fruit juices, and snacks all begin problems that your kid’s dentist finally sees during a visit to the office. Small choices every day about what we eat influences dental hygiene, good or bad.

Creating good dental hygiene habits in your children is especially important. Habits start early and can make the difference between strong teeth and tooth decay. Childhood tooth decay, also known as pediatric dental disease, remains the #1 chronic childhood illness. Early tooth decay often leads to greater problems such as pain and infections in the teeth and mouth. If tooth decay remains untreated, greater problems often occur as well. Difficulty eating or speaking due to pain may lead to malnourishment.

Making good choices about what your children are eating is the first and most important step in creating good, lifelong habits where food choices and tooth care are concerned. Any kid’s dentist will share their experiences with the problems created by our diet and what is in our food. Foods that fight tooth decay and promote dental health are especially important.

Calcium rich foods, such as milk and other dairy products, help build tooth and general bone strength. Fiber rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, help create natural defenses for our teeth. Whole grains, with their high amount of iron and B vitamins, help promote healthy gums. Combining these foods in your child’s diet will help ensure that every visit to your kid’s dentist is as pleasant as possible. Coupling good food choices with the recommended regimen of flossing, brushing, and regular visits to the dentist will ensure your young one’s teeth are healthy and strong.

Taking care of your young and growing child is a big responsibility. A multitude of things exist to protect children from in this day and age. How to properly care for teeth shouldn’t be a large source of worry. Consult your kid’s dentist to talk about what you can do to help ensure that your young ones grow up with healthy teeth. They will thank you for it years later when the good practices you taught remain with them as adults.