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 -maybe they explain it badly, or perhaps the parents don't quite understand the importance of what they are being told. Child dental hygiene is just one of those things that dentists don't seem to explain very well, in a way that's understandable.
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, Dr. Pepper 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!
What I have just written in the paragraph above is REALLY IMPORTANT. The simple message there? - Give your kids water to drink! You will NOT be doing them any favors by trying to give them something sweet!
When it comes to candy, the best advice is NO CANDY!
BUT there is a way to minimize the bad effects of candy, if we "get real" and accept that all kids will start wanting candy at some point. 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. Then, when it's "candy time" (you choose what time of day works best for you), your kids should eat their candy in one go. Don't let them spin it out over several hours!
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.
YOU (the adult) should do the brushing! Your kid can then "have a go" afterwards, when you've made sure you brushed your child's teeth slowly and gently. If you make out that it's an ADULT thing to do, your children will want to have a go at brushing themselves!
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!
SO WHAT WERE THE BIG 3 THINGS TO REMEMBER?
First is what your children eat and drink; keep them on plain water and weak herbal teas for as long as possible; limit eating candy to ONE time of day only.
Second is toothbrushing with an ADULT toothpaste. Get the smallest brush you can find, and YOU brush your child's teeth, slowly and gently. Make a game of it!
Third, I believe in the value of fluoride supplements, if your local tap water does not contain any fluoride.
That's MY BEST ADVICE when it comes to dental hygiene for kids! If you follow my rules, I can almost GUARANTEE that they will never get a cavity!