Tips for getting your kids to brush and floss

You can’t begin teaching good dental hygiene too soon. The benefits will last a lifetime.

Toddlers

With toddlers, choose a fun brush made for little ones and use a pea-size dab of a toothpaste. Choose a brand recommended by the American Dental Association. (You’ll find this information on the toothpaste box.) Make sure the child doesn’t swallow the toothpaste. If this is a problem, use a fluoride-free toothpaste until the child’s a little older.

Teach proper brushing techniques by demonstrating on a doll or by letting the toddler “help” brush your teeth.

Begin flossing as soon as your child has teeth that touch.

Over time, pacifiers and thumbs push the front teeth forward and affect the child’s bite. Seek advice from your dentist and pediatrician if one of these habits continues past age five—the damage of thumb sucking is of greatest concern with permanent teeth.

Children

  • Help your kids brush and floss until you’re confident they can do it well by themselves, normally when they’re about five or six years old.
  • Kids should brush their teeth in a circular pattern for at least three minutes.
  • If you’re meeting resistance to brushing and flossing, consider adding rewards, such as sticker charts, until a dental care routine is established.
  • Do you have a budding sports star? Make sure mouth guards are always part of the uniform.
  • Talk with your dentist about supplemental fluoride if your water supply isn’t fluoridated. Fluoride helps prevent and reverse tooth decay.
  • Another effective way to protect kids’ teeth is with sealants. Clear plastic sealants are applied over the parts of the back teeth used to chew where they serve as a barrier to food and acid that destroys the surface of the teeth.
  • Offer kids healthful, crunchy snacks like apples and carrots. These foods help remove plaque.

Teens

Teens are voracious consumers of colas and carbs, both of which are highly harmful to teeth. Encourage your teen to follow a healthful diet, including getting enough calcium.

Third molars, popularly called “wisdom teeth,” normally appear between ages 16 and 25. Often, there isn’t enough space in the mouth for wisdom teeth and they only partially break the surface of the gum or don’t erupt at all. In trying to find space, wisdom teeth can throw other teeth out of alignment and they’re prone to decay and infection. Most dentists agree that the best solution for problem wisdom teeth is to extract them.

Your teen may think that tongue or lip piercing is stylish now but they often become infected and have a tendency to chip and crack teeth.

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