Dental hygiene for kids starts when they are only a few months old, before they even get any teeth!
Research has shown that dentists know about preventing cavities in their own kids teeth. They are just not very good at telling their patients about it! Child dental hygiene is just one of those things that dentists don't explain very well.
So here is my "bare bones" guide to preventing cavities in your kids teeth. This is based on solid research into the teeth of dentists' kids. What things do dentists do to reduce the risk of cavities?
1. Watching what your kids eat AND drink. As very small tots, drinks for kids should be either plain water or luke-warm weak teas, such as chamomile tea. If you want to give them fruit juice, dilute it with water as much as you can! The more water the better. But at least half water and half juice!
Avoid giving your kids ANY TYPES of soda. No Coke, Mountain Dew, Fanta, etc. All sodas (even sugar-free) have acids in them that attack teeth, AND the normal ones are chock-full of sugar, which feeds the bacteria that make cavities!
When it comes to candy, it's best for your kids' teeth if they eat what they've got in the shortest possible time. This reduces the exposure time of their teeth to sugar. Get your small tots into the habit of "saving up" their candy for a particular time of day. That way, you're not denying Gramps the fun of giving his grandchildren those little treats!
2. Making sure they clean their teeth right. Get the smallest brush you can find. Use a small spot of adult fluoride toothpaste. An adult toothpaste has more fluoride in it, and is WAY more effective at preventing cavities! Brush very slowly and gently around your kids' teeth at bedtime.
It's better if they don't rinse out afterwards. Leave that thin layer of toothpaste froth on the teeth. It's MUCH MORE powerful in preventing cavities. And for tiny tots, NO BOTTLE to fall asleep with!
Once they get to 4 years old, make a game of using a disclosing tablet once a week, to check how well they are brushing.
3. Fluoride supplements. From the age of about 4 months, if you live in an area that has little or no natural fluoride in the water, start giving your child fluoride supplements. For tiny tots, the easiest form is liquid fluoride drops. You can drip the drop straight onto their tongue! Or drop it into a small amount of water or diluted juice.
Older kids can crunch on a fluoride tablet at bedtime. Check with your local pharmacy. They can advise you as to the correct dose for your area. This dose will change as your child gets older. The dose is extremely low, and absolutely safe.
As a parent, I know it's not easy to get diet and toothbrushing perfect all the time. If your kids want a soda with their pals after the junior ball game, it'd be a cruel parent indeed who said "no"! So the OCCASIONAL departure from my recommendations is OK. My guide to dental hygiene for kids has a little flexibility!
That's why I believe it's important to try to cover all 3 "magic bullets". You can slip a little now and again on one or two of them, without losing the benefits!