Tips on brushing and dental products

Nothing can light up your face like your child’s smile—so teach him how to take good care of those pearly whites. Read on for tips on getting your child to brush and deciding what’s best for his dental health.

Good brushing habits

Help your children learn good brushing habits by creating a brushing ritual each morning and evening. For children under age 7, let them brush, but tell them you’ll get the spots they miss. Brush both the inside and outside of the teeth, plus the tongue. To get them on board, consider explaining there are sugar bugs that you need to zap and your weapon is a toothbrush.

Provide teeth-brushing incentives, like letting kids pick out their own toothbrush, buying flavored toothpaste or buying a battery-operated brush. To motivate brushing, do it with them and make it fun. Maybe have a teeth-brushing song that you listen to and wiggle to while you brush—preferably about two minutes, the recommended time for brushing.

Flouride or no?

Flouride has been proven to reduce the first stage of tooth decay, so it’s important to brush with fluoride once a day. If you are concerned about your children ingesting fluoride, use fluoride-free, natural toothpaste for morning brushing and a fluoride one at night. Plus, keep the fluoride toothpaste to a wee amount – no more than the size of a pea. Also, keep the toothpaste out of reach so a curious toddler won’t eat it.

Does my child need sealants?

Once your child’s permanent molars come in, your dentist will likely recommend sealants. Sealants are a coating placed on molars to prevent cavities that can start in the crevices of back teeth. A Cochrane Collaboration study found that sealants cut decay in half on biting surfaces of 5- to 10-year-olds compared to their non-sealant counterparts. Yet sealants also were questioned by health-conscious parents for containing, and releasing, BPA—a poly-carbonate plastic that plays a role in cancer and has been shown to alter hormones, even bringing on an early onset of puberty. The American Dental Association argues the amount released from sealants is too low to be harmful. Not all sealants contain BPA, but if you are concerned either forego sealants or check with your dentist about the product they use.

Pacifiers and thumb sucking

Dentists don’t love thumb sucking or pacifier use because they can sometimes damage your child’s teeth. The American Dental Association says that children usually stop sucking their thumb or using a pacifier between ages 2 and 4. Others don’t stop until they enter kindergarten, when peer pressure and teasing makes them quit in a jiffy. While thumb sucking isn’t usually a serious problem, it can be. The harder a child sucks, the more chance she could damage her primary or permanent teeth. If your child is 4 or under, you can relax a bit. If your kiddo is 6 or 7 and permanent teeth are coming in, it’s time to kick the habit. Kids can end up with an overbite, crooked teeth or even changes to the roof of the mouth. Bottom line, if you’ve noticed changes in your child’s teeth from sucking, see a pediatric dentist.

Good dental care is a part of good overall health. Keep that beautiful smile shining with good brushing habits.