Healthy Oral Habits for Children’s Dental Health Month
How to teach the little ones in your life the importance of caring for their baby teeth, and helpful tips to know for Children’s Dental Health Month
Every February, the American Dental Association (ADA) celebrates National Children’s Dental Health Month. This annual observation promotes healthy dental habits for kids and provides parents with fun ways to get their little ones excited about dental care.
This year’s theme is all about teaching the youngins how drinking more water can improve their dental health and fight off the harmful effects of sugary drinks. Hence the slogan, “Water: Nature’s Drink.”
Instilling good dental habits at a young age is one of the best ways to ensure your little one enjoys a lifetime full of healthy smiles. But making dental care fun and exciting for them isn’t always a walk in the park.
To celebrate Children’s Dental Health Month, we put together some dentist-approved tips, helpful information, and fun activities to make dental care a blast for your child.
It’s Never Too Early To Prioritize Your Child’s Dental Health
Many parents wonder when they should start cleaning their child's teeth and when to take them in for their first dentist visit.
The answer is: it’s never too early!
In honor of Children’s Dental Health Month, we’ve compiled this list of answers to common questions parents have about infant and child dental care. By the end, you’ll have the knowledge to care for your little one’s oral health like a dental professional!
- When should I start cleaning my child’s teeth? As soon as their first tooth erupts, start brushing twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste to strengthen their enamel. You can even start cleaning their gums before their teeth start coming in to ensure a healthy mouth. After feeding them, dampen a soft washcloth and gently clean their gums to get rid of any harmful bacteria.
- When should I take my child in for their first dentist visit? The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends scheduling your child’s first dentist visit six months after their first tooth comes in, or no later than their first birthday. Most infants will develop their first tooth within twelve months. Your San Diego dentist can assess the early development of your little one’s teeth and ensure their dental health is on the right track.
- When should I start flossing my child’s teeth? As soon as two of their teeth touch, you’re cleared to start flossing. Just like for your adult teeth, you should floss your child’s at least once a day to dislodge any stubborn food particles and bacteria.
- How often should I bring my child in for dentist checkups? For the little ones, biannual checkups (once every six months) are best. Visiting your San Diego dentist twice a year gives them a chance to catch any dental issues while they’re small and manageable and make sure your child’s teeth are growing in properly.
- How often should I replace my child’s toothbrush? The rule of thumb is every three to four months, or once you notice the bristles become frayed.
As the ADA suggests, replacing sugary drinks with water whenever possible is a huge help in the fight against childhood tooth decay. With this harmful disease affecting over a quarter of all children in the United States, it’s essential to give your baby every advantage you can.
As they get older, making healthy snack choices is another great way of protecting their baby teeth. With all the sticky candies, gummies, fruit juices, and sodas, it can be hard to avoid processed sugars in their day to day diet.
To combat the ever-present cavity-causing ingredient, try adding some fruit, low or no sugar yogurt, and nuts into the mix.
Your child’s baby teeth help them eat, speak, smile, and hold valuable space for their adult teeth. Protecting them sets your little one up for a healthy mouth now and when their permanent teeth grow in.
For a full breakdown of how to care for your child’s dental health, check out our parent’s guide to children’s dentistry here.
Dental Care At Home Doesn’t Have to Be Like Pulling Teeth!
Children’s Dental Health Month is all about making dental care fun, both inside and outside the office.
At home, turning daily brushing and flossing into a game and adding interactive activities to your child’s oral health routine are both excellent ways of teaching them the importance of proper oral hygiene.
You can create a daily dental care calendar with your little one that they can check off whenever they brush and floss. You can turn your oral hygiene habits into a family activity and take care of your teeth together. Or, you can have your little one pick out a song to brush their teeth to.
The AAPD recommends helping them build a brushing playlist with their favorite songs and letting them pick which section of the song they’d like to brush to most.
If you need some help coming up with ideas, the ADA and AAPD have plenty of fun printable oral health activities like coloring pages, crossword puzzles, mazes, word searches, and more.
You can find a list of downloadable dental care-themed worksheets by the AAPD here.
And the ADA has a connect-the-dots activity, brushing calendar, and more here.
If your child is at the age where their baby teeth are starting to fall out, the Tooth Fairy is a fantastic––and magical––way to make their oral health journey fun!
Each time they lose a tooth, you can have them write a note to the tooth fairy in a special notebook. You can decorate the notebook together, and when you leave their reward at night, you can write a little note from the Tooth Fairy praising them for taking such good care of their teeth.
The ADA also suggests filling out special “tooth receipts” as the Tooth Fairy to commemorate lost teeth. You can pick up a receipt pad yourself and add your child’s name, the date, the reward, and a description of their tooth. Or, you can print out the ADA’s version here.
Whatever fun activities you choose, try to include your little one in the decision making and creative processes as much as possible. The more involved they are, the more proud they’ll be of their good oral health habits!
Visiting Your San Diego Dentist
One of the best recipes for creating a comfortable, curious, and even exciting trip to the dentist is to make it a family affair.
When you take your child to the dentist, schedule appointments for yourself as well. Bring the grandparents along if you can. Seeing mom, dad, grandma, and grandpa in the dentist's chair will work wonders for their trust and comfortability.
Combined with a friendly, fun, and educational approach from your San Diego dentist, your little one will have an enjoyable learning experience that will leave a positive impact on their life.
Who knows, they may even ask oral health questions all the way home!
It’s Always Children’s Dental Health Month at Dental Express
At Dental Express, we embody the core values of Children’s Dental Health Month all year round.
As a family dentist, we make it easy to have a family-friendly experience that your little ones will love.
Our dental team knows how important it is for children to foster good oral health habits, and we always make sure to provide a positive, uplifting, and educational experience for them.
Creating futures full of bright, healthy smiles is what we do. And when you bring your family to Dental Express, you become family.
For affordable, patient-focused dental care in the San Diego area, reach out to any of our six locations for information or to set up an appointment. We’re always here for you and your little one’s smile!