Photograph of a young girl with straight red hair smiling and giving a thumbs up while at the dentist.

Starting Your Child on the Road to Dental Health

The oral hygiene habits we start in our childhood last a lifetime. When kids learn to take good care of their teeth and that going to the dentist is a positive experience, it results in a healthier smile as an adult – not to mention drama-free dental visits. Here’s how to start your child on the road to dental health.

Make their first appointment early

There was a time when a child’s first dental visit wasn’t recommended until they were preschool age. Now, we know that it’s best for children to start seeing the dentist when their first teeth emerge or when they reach one year of age, whichever comes first. 

Why such early pediatric dental exams? First, it helps us spot any potential problems with a child’s teeth as they are erupting and forming in the mouth. More importantly, it helps establish a relationship with your child’s dental care provider. We’ll instruct you in how to care for your little one’s new teeth and discuss other good oral hygiene habits – and the not-so-good ones too. Early dental appointments also help us get to know your child, and them to get to know us. With each subsequent appointment, the trust your child has grows stronger and they begin to have positive associations with dental care. This is important, as many children who fear the dentist do so because they aren’t familiar with them or what happens at the dentist’s office.

Teach good hygiene habits

Children need to be taught how to brush their teeth properly because, when left to their own devices, a brushing session is usually a quick swipe of the toothbrush on the fronts of the teeth. 

Parents should do the brushing for babies and toddlers. When children reach preschool age, you can begin to share brushing duties –  let them take the lead and get started, then you can finish up and make sure to brush all the hard-to-reach spots at the back of the mouth. Even once your child is brushing their teeth on their own, it’s a good idea to supervise. Setting a timer for two minutes will help them make sure they’re brushing for the proper amount of time, and it can also make a fun game out of brushing. Some kids like using electric toothbrushes with built-in timers, too.

Flossing can be difficult for small hands, so you might have to do this for your kids. When there’s enough space between the teeth, younger children may have success using dental floss picks, but again, they will need supervision to make sure they’re flossing properly.

Help them eat right for dental health

That means limiting sugary foods, making soda and juice off-limits or rare treats, and meals full of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy proteins. The bacteria in our mouths thrive on sugar; when this bacteria becomes established in the mouth, it releases acid that wears away tooth enamel, causing cavities. 

Of course, it’s impractical to expect that kids will never eat sweets. When they do have candy, cookies, or other treats, have them brush their teeth afterwards. If they’re not at home, rinsing with water is better than nothing. It’s important that sugary food debris isn’t in the mouth for an extended amount of time after eating.

Set a good example

When your child sees you going to the dentist regularly, eating a healthy diet, and brushing your teeth for two minutes, twice a day, they’re more likely to maintain good oral habits as they get older too. Children are smart—“do as I say, not as I do” is never a strategy that works!

Schedule an appointment with our Midtown NYC pediatric dentists

To make an appointment for your child, contact us at 212-685-4730 today. We look forward to seeing you!