From a baby’s first tooth to visits from the tooth fairy to twice yearly dental visits, and braces, childhood is filled with plenty of dental memories. To ensure healthy teeth for years to come it is vital for children to learn preventive dental care habits from a very early age. This includes brushing of course as well as several necessary steps to help keep teeth and gums healthy for a lifetime.
While kids are notorious for disliking flossing, it is an essential part of oral hygiene. Flossing is the only way to get in between teeth to remove food particles and plaque. Brushing alone cannot effectively remove bacteria and food. Ninety percent of bacteria reside in between teeth, and only dental floss can access these areas of the mouth. Teach by example and continue to stress the importance of flossing even when you get complaints and protest! It might not be until they become parents themselves but your children will thank you later on!
Do Not Forget the Tongue!
While teeth and gums are a primary focus, it is also important to teach kids to clean their tongues. The tongue has areas that can hide bacteria and promote the development of plaque and bad breath. Make it fun by sticking tongues out in front of the mirror and brushing while making funny faces!
Schedule Twice Yearly Cleanings
Tartar forms when bacteria builds up on the teeth. This can result in inflammation and even bleeding gums. When this happens, it is time to visit the dentist. Remember only dentists and dental hygienists can safely remove tartar from teeth. A dull ache or even sensitivity when brushing may be signs of more significant problems such as receding gums or a dead nerve inside a tooth. Ask your dentist about sealants for the biting surfaces of your child‘s teeth. The grooves are susceptible to decay even with good brushing habits.
What about Brushing?
Get your kids in the habit of brushing at an early age. Advise them to brush for two minutes twice daily front, back and on biting surfaces. It is also important that they have the right technique and type of toothbrush to protect their teeth and gums. Standard nylon toothbrushes can be especially harsh and irritating for children’s delicate, sensitive gums. Children (and adults too!) often brush much too aggressively, which can lead to serious problems later on in life!
Each year, an estimated 24 million people suffer from what the Medical College of Georgia School of Dentistry has labeled as “toothbrush disease.” The term means gingival recession and wear of the root surface caused by over brushing, which contributes to receding gums and hypersensitivity of the teeth.
Do yourself and your family a favor: put up a sign in your bathroom to remind your family: faster and harder brushing does not mean cleaner teeth. Over-brushing can lead to receding gums and painful surgery!
Another option is to get in touch with me about purchasing a specialty toothbrush I created called the PeriClean and PeriKids Ultra Soft Specialty Toothbrush for children up to 12 years old. Its patented, ultra gentle design allows children to brush their teeth easily and comfortably even when losing their primary (baby teeth) and as their permanent teeth grow in. I also designed it with a thick, contoured handle making it easy for children to use.
Just remember this: proper dental care is a lifelong responsibility that begins in the toddler years and continues throughout adulthood. By teaching these important habits during the formative first years, you can give your child one of the most amazing gifts of life – a healthy smile!
Dr. Jack Gruber, DDS is a periodontist in clinical practice for more than four decades. After many years of research and testing, Dr. Gruber created the PeriClean, an alternative to standard nylon toothbrushes to combat gum recession caused by toothbrush abrasion. Its design minimizes forceful brushing that causes damage to the teeth and gums while removing plaque with a textured surface.