Instilling good dental habits in your child while they are young can lead to a lifetime of excellent at-home care. However, older children and teens may not want to brush or floss every day (or sometimes ever!). Here are some helpful tips to keep encouraging good at-home habits.
- Supervise your child’s brushing, at least until age 6 or 8, or do the brushing yourself if the child does not have the control or concentration to do so themselves.
- Show children the proper brushing technique: Some children prefer back and forth, others up and down.The motion really does not matter. What matters is brushing ALL teeth – not just the ones the child can see – thoroughly: top and bottom, front and back, inside and out.
- Always give children the right size and style toothbrush for their age.
- Look for brown or white spots on teeth – this could indicate tooth decay.
- Stick to twice-yearly cleaning and exam appointments after your first visit.
- Encourage children to watch cartoons or videos that talk about the importance of brushing – you’ll find plenty!
- Around age 6, begin looking for loose teeth and make sure the tooth fairy visits!
- Make sure the child is brushing at least twice a day and for two minutes each time. Give them a timer to use, or have them pick out a two-minute song to play.
- Check to be sure the size of toothbrush is still appropriate for their age.
- Continue checking for loose teeth and new teeth. The last tooth is generally lost around age 12.
- Continue looking for spots on teeth that could be decay, and have the child look, too.
- Expect cavities. Although cavities can appear at any age, ages 8-13 are often prime time for them.
- Around age 10, introduce flossing to children and show them the proper techniques. Keep floss near their toothbrush, or consider buying a water flosser for them.
- As with any age, limit sugary treats and highly acidic foods.
- Continue to stick to the twice-yearly cleaning and exam appointments with us. These are crucial for problem prevention and for getting extra protection such as sealants and fluoride treatments.
- Teens often go through a period of not wanting to take care of their teeth. Perhaps stress that nobody likes gross teeth or bad breath – including their friends, coaches and teachers.
- By age 13, most kids have all their permanent teeth. Express to them that these are the only teeth they’ll ever have, so they need to brush twice a day and floss once a day.
- Let them know that they have not outgrown cavities or the beginnings of gum disease.
- Expect to have the dentist look for orthodontic issues and perhaps make a referral.
- Explain how food, beverage and lifestyle choices can affect their teeth:
- Sugary food, junk food, fast food, and pop or energy drinks can affect both nutrition and teeth.
- Smoking, chewing tobacco and vaping can adversely affect their health and teeth.
- If your child plays sports, make sure they always wear a mouthguard. We can custom-make one in our office.
- Continue with their twice-yearly cleanings and exams.