Parents may sometimes feel it’s like pulling teeth to get their kids to actually brush their teeth. But good oral hygiene and dental care help keep the little ones happy and healthy. That’s why parents need to take pediatric dental care seriously and start building strong oral hygiene habits when children are young.
“Everyone, even babies, need good oral hygiene,” says Unum Dental Director Jim Di Marino, DDS. “Proper hygiene and dental care habits are essential to maintaining a child’s health. Additionally, establishing good dental-care habits is easier to do when children are young – habits that will hopefully last through adulthood.”
According to Dr. Di Marino, parents can help their kids develop valuable dental health routines with the following tips:
Demonstrate the correct brushing technique. Children often do not possess the coordination to brush their own teeth until they’re old enough to tie their shoes. However, Dr. Di Marino advises parents that they can still turn each brushing into a valuable lesson.
“Smaller children may lack the motor skills to brush their teeth, but that doesn’t mean they cannot learn the right technique,” he says.
Each time you brush your toddler’s or preschooler’s teeth, explain how to brush using step-by-step instructions.
Don’t forget to floss. And we’re not talking about the “Fortnite” dance taking over elementary schools across the country but actual dental flossing.
The purpose of flossing is to clean between teeth where toothbrush bristles cannot fit all the way. Therefore, you want to take a look at the spacing between your child’s teeth to see where to floss. As children get older, they typically have less space between their teeth with more crowding.
Schedule regular dental visits. Children should see a dentist every six months, starting after the first tooth erupts or by age 1, according to the American Association of Pediatric Dentistry.
“Regular dental appointments reduce certain health risks and decrease the chances that common oral problems accelerate into something more serious,” says Dr. Di Marino.
Younger children are also less likely to fear their dentists, compared to those who are older visiting the dentist for the first time, he adds. However, it’s still possible for a child to develop such a fear at any time or simply refuse to cooperate during dental visits.
There are several things parents can do to help their toddler or child deal with dental anxiety. Here are two:
1.) Play dentist. Using the power of your child’s imagination, pretend play can help prepare your child for their dental appointments. Take turns pretending to be the dentist and looking into each other’s mouth. This allows your child to associate a dentist with something fun and become comfortable with the concept of an oral exam, while in a familiar and safe environment.
2.) Find the right dentist. All general dentists receive training to treat children, but pediatric dentists receive additional, in-depth training specifically for infants through adolescence. Whatever kind of dentist you see, it is important that your child and their dentist have a trusting relationship. Look for the dentist that makes your child feel comfortable. If you have a Unum dental insurance plan and need to find a dentist, remember that you can access Unum’s Provider Locator Tool online.