As a child, I was terrified of the dentist. I would work myself into a tizzy over regular dental cleanings. Having a cavity filled was enough to send me into a panic.
As an adult, my fear of the dentist has, thankfully, dissipated. It’s not my favorite thing to do, but I no longer cry and panic when it’s time for my twice yearly dental checkups.
Fortunately, my children don’t share my terror of the dentist. They love to visit the dentist’s office and show off their loose and missing teeth. They love to get new toothbrushes and choose a prize from the treasure box. My oldest has even been through braces, a cavity, and minor dental surgery. All of which he handled with much more bravery than his mom.
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. Here are a few tips to help keep your child’s smile bright and healthy.
- Brush regularly.
As soon as your child’s first teeth appear, parents should begin a twice daily brushing routine. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends brushing for two minutes twice a day using a tiny bit of toothpaste the size of a grain of rice for babies or a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste for kids ages three and up.
If brushing twice a day is a battle for your little one, try brushing to a favorite song or choose a toothbrush timer app to make the chore more fun. Your child may also enjoy pretending to brush a favorite stuffed animal’s teeth while you brush his or her teeth.
Be sure to throw out your child’s toothbrush after three to four months or when bristles begin to fray.
- Don’t forget to floss.
Once two teeth touch, it’s time to start flossing. Children’s plastic flossing tools are a good way for kids to learn to floss on their own.
- Encourage your child to drink water.
Sugary drinks such as fruit juice, soda, and sports drinks contribute to tooth decay. Drinking water with fluoride is an important way to prevent cavities. Often bottled water does not contain fluoride so local water is best.
- Schedule regular dental visits.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends dental check-ups every six months beginning when your child’s first tooth appears or by your child’s first birthday.
To ease anxiety before a dental visit, it may be helpful to read a book such as The Berenstain Bears Visit The Dentist by Stan and Jan Berenstain, Curious George Visits The Dentist by Margret and H. A. Rey or Show Me Your Smile! (Dora the Explorer) by Christine Ricci.