First I’d like to thank Isis Parenting for doing a great job facilitating meaningful discussions for all sorts of parenting topics. What a great community to learn from and share with!
I did want to help by sharing some of what I know and what I’ve learned from working with dental patients and their parents. It’s great that so many parents are already helping and trying their best to make the experience fun and enjoyable. Keep up that positive attitude.
1.) Starting early is very, very helpful. Even in infancy, before any teeth erupt, parents and caregivers can use a soft clean wet cloth to gently wipe a baby’s gums after feedings. This gets an infant used to someone going in there and touching the gums.
2.) As the baby gets older, parents can help by using a finger brush and as the first teeth come in, a soft bristled brush. Water is even fine to use to help clean. The AAPD (American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry) recommends that all children start seeing a dentist by their first birthday or within 6 months of their first tooth. Children can have their teeth polished as well as become familiar with some of the sights and sounds of the dental office.
3.) The parents on the Isis Parenting discussion had some awesome ideas for kids in their toddler years. I especially like the one with the child mimicking the parents’ actions. Seeing adults brush is a great way for kids to learn. They like knowing they are doing something that even adults have to do. One parent has told me she does the “You brush, then I brush, then you brush, then I brush” game with her daughter.
Many may have to give the child a few minutes to brush, and then the parent can step in and do a “check” which would involve a thorough once-over, and then a “great job.”
Kids also like to see themselves when they brush. It’s entertaining, so if you are able to have the child brush in front of a mirror, that helps. They see the way they hold their brush results in them brushing different parts of their mouth.
You can also let the child brush his/her tongue. It’s a fun step at the end they probably won’t let you forget.
4.) Use non-fluoridated toothpaste until a child is able to spit out – this is usually around age 3. You may also check with your dentist for their opinion.
Songs are wonderful, and some toothbrushes even have music that plays. Timers can be used so children know the brushing won’t last all day and that they can move onto other fun things. Two minutes or longer is recommended, twice daily.
Unfortunately, there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to the brushing routine, but that’s with most things parents have to deal with. You will find what works best for you and your child, and until you do, keep experimenting. Creativity is key.
Children really do need their parents’ help brushing until around age 7 or 8. Glad you’re making oral health part of your parenting discussion.
Here are a few more resources from the A.A.P.D. that may help:
I’d be happy to answer any further questions or discuss any more dental care topics you may have concerns with. Thank you!
— Femina Ali, D.M.D.