Happy National Smile Month!

There’s nothing happier than a healthy smile, so it’s important to build good dental hygiene habits in children early on. Those habits can be as simple as brushing and flossing for the recommended length of time every day and visiting your dentist for regular cleanings.

We’re taught early on that brushing is key to maintaining a healthy mouth and a sparkling smile. Brushing reduces the bacteria in the mouth that can eventually cause decay, so it’s best to wash as much away as possible. To do that, children should brush for at least two minutes, twice a day. As soon as teeth are visible in the mouth, parents should begin brushing them for their child. It’s recommended that an adult help children eight years old and younger to make sure it’s done thoroughly every time, until they’re knowledgeable enough to do it on their own.

To make sure brushing is most effective, using a fluoride toothpaste will increase the benefits of twice-daily brushing, especially in children. Children under three only need a rice-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste across the brush, and three to six year old’s can use a pea-sized amount. By brushing the fluoride toothpaste on all surfaces of the teeth, the child’s teeth will be protected from tooth decay early on, and during the crucial early growing stages of their adult teeth.

To be especially effective, children shouldn’t eat or drink for at least 20 minutes after brushing. Waiting will allow the fluoride to stay on the teeth longer and fight off any early decay. For this reason, brushing right before bedtime is best, so they go to sleep with a clean and protected mouth.

Flossing before bedtime, on the other hand, may not be necessary in children under four years old. As adult teeth grow in, they typically don’t touch each other right away. Since you only need to floss teeth that touch each other, a thorough brushing by an adult should be enough to rid the little one’s mouth of debris and plaque. Just like brushing, an adult will need to help with flossing at first to make sure it’s being done correctly.

Brushing and flossing early on in a child’s life is not only important for good dental health, but also for proper development in other areas. A healthy mouth allows kids to learn to speak properly, interact confidently with family and friends, chew their food thoroughly, and easily chew healthy fibrous foods like vegetables and fruits that will positively impact their overall health. It’s important that kids’ diets are filled with these healthy foods instead of sugary or starchy foods, because the latter will feed bacteria in the mouth that causes decay.

Missing brushings, eating sugary foods, and neglecting to brush for the recommended amount of time can cause poor oral health problems for kids. These problems can escalate in ways that make children miss school more often and can lead to lower grades as a result. If a student is suffering with untreated tooth decay, they may be in pain that distracts them from paying attention in class. The discomfort may also make it difficult for them to sleep at night which will also hurt their performance in school.

Another way to make sure kids stay healthy and happy in school is by carefully monitoring what they eat, and when. The chances a child will get a cavity increases significantly if they eat or drink snacks or sugary beverages more than five times a day, and especially right before bedtime. The production and flow of saliva slows down when we sleep, so bacteria isn’t washed away as quickly after our head hits the pillow.

One source of sugar that’s often overlooked and often consumed right before bed are liquid medications. If your child is sick, it’s best to give them their cold medicine before they brush their teeth. Even following the medicine with a glass of water will help wash the sugar away.

The key to a happy kid is a happy mouth so start teaching these habits early for a lifetime of sparkling smiles!