Any parent will tell you that persuading children to brush their teeth can be a difficult task. When there are cartoons to watch and toys to play with, those four minutes a day that your little one needs to spend brushing can seem like an eternity. Children with additional needs, and particularly those with sensory difficulties, can be even harder to convince. However, regular cleaning and teaching them about making good nutritional choices to support their oral care will ensure that they have healthy teeth and gums throughout their childhood. If you want to ensure that your child understands the importance of looking after their teeth then read on for my guide on how to keep your tooth fairy happy and make oral health fun for kids.
Babies may start showing signs of teething from as young as 8 weeks of age, but typically the first tooth shows up between 4 and 8 months. That said, some children cut their first tooth much later – my son was 14 months old – and although rare, some babies are actually born with a tooth! As soon as your baby gets a tooth you should begin the cleaning process. Get them an infant toothbrush to hold and demonstrate to them putting it into their mouths and the actions that they need to make. When you actually brush them, use a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste. The important thing at this stage is to get them used to brushing their teeth as a part of their daily routine.
If you decide to give your infant a drink in a bottle then always try and give water or milk rather than juice. Bottles encourage prolonged sucking which means that any sugary drink that may be coating the teat/nipple will be in contact with your child’s teeth for an extended period, increasing the likelihood of decay. Teeth are also more at risk at night when there is less saliva to protect them so the sooner your child drops any night-time feeds the better… for your sanity as well as their teeth!
Good nutrition is not only important for your child’s growth and wellbeing, but it also plays a vital part of maintaining good oral health. Here are some basic guidelines for helping your child make the best nutritional choices for their oral health, but for more comprehensive advice please visit: diamondbraces.com/snacking-and-oral-health
Calcium is an essential nutrient for developing strong teeth, and works to fortify the adult teeth during childhood. A glass of milk is a great accompaniment to your child’s snack. Children under the age of 5 are recommended to have full fat or semi-skimmed varieties, whereas older kids can opt for lower fat versions.
The recommended daily allowance of calcium varies dependant on child age. Current guidelines suggest the following:
Children aged 1to 3 : 500mg per day
Children aged 4 to 8 : 800mg per day
Children aged 9 to 18 : 1300mg per day
Whilst we frazzled parents believe that our children suck the energy out of us for their own personal use, they also need plenty of snacks to keep them going. Unfortunately a lot of convenient snack items are packed full of salt and sugar, making them far from ideal choice for maintaining healthy teeth, particularly as brushing after snacks is a rare occurrence and sometimes impossible to do. Limiting processed snacks and keeping a supply of healthier, teeth-friendly alternatives is advisable. Raw veggies, complex carbohydrates such as wholegrain toast, and even cubes of cheese are much better alternatives.
Fruit always seems like a great choice for a snack as it is usually easy and convenient, and it’s healthy too, right? Yes fruit is a healthier snack than the processed snacks I mentioned before. However it is also full of sugar – albeit the naturally occurring kind – which also damages teeth. Limit fruit and opt for veggie-based snacks where possible.
It will come as no surprise to you that water is the very best drink that we can give to our children for their overall and oral health. It is sugar free, calorie free and great for staying hydrated. Sugary and fizzy drinks should be avoided as much as possible, and if you opt to give your child fruit juice, try and limit how often and opt for unsweetened varieties where you can.
Making brush-time fun
As I said at the start, getting your kids to take time out of their busy lives to brush their teeth can be a challenge. Making it a routine and making it fun are the best ways to ensure that they look after their oral health.
Ideally both children and adults should brush a minimum of twice per day and after each meal if at all possible, and you should do it for at least 2 minutes each time. That is a lot longer than most people realise and definitely much longer than most people brush for. Setting an alarm or using a timer is a good way to keep track, but I highly recommend using an egg-timer. Kids are fascinated watching the sand trickle away and the two minutes are quickly over for them. They are inexpensive and easy to find online. Another alternative is to find a song that they like that is at least two minutes long and ask them to brush for the duration of the song. They can even have a little dance around the bathroom whilst they do it!
Brushing should always be done in a circular motion so encourage your kids to make “train wheels” with brushes (with accompanying noises if necessary!) and use brushes with smaller heads to help them get to those harder to reach teeth. Battery-powered toothbrushes are also a great choice for helping children do an awesome job of brushing.
Other useful ways to encourage brushing include stickers and reward charts and allowing your children to pick out their own toothbrushes.
Don’t forget about the dentist!
As soon as your child has a number of teeth ensure that you register them with a dentist and start taking them for the recommended schedule for check-ups. Your dentist can ensure that your child’s teeth are in optimum health, your child will learn to feel comfortable in the environment, and going for an oral check up will quickly become an easy routine.
I hope that you have found this guide interesting and useful, and can use some of the ideas and information to make brush time fun for your children. For further, comprehensive guidance on oral health I recommend visiting this awesome website, diamondbraces.com.
Photo: my 8yr old enjoying brush time!