The Importance of Early Oral Hygiene Habits
The American Dental Hygienists’ Association and dental professionals in every area of specialization strongly encourage the early teaching of proper oral health habits. Children who grow up in an environment in which healthy habits are emphasized typically encounter fewer oral health issues in their teen years and in adulthood.
When to Start Teaching Oral Hygiene Habits
In order to ensure that children realize how important oral hygiene truly is, it is important for parents to begin instilling these values at an early age. Even before children are old enough to comprehend the acts of brushing or flossing, parents can take steps to foster healthy oral hygiene habits. These include:
- Even before the first tooth appears, clean and massage gums with a soft cloth soaked in lukewarm water after each feeding
- When teeth do begin to erupt, use a soft-bristled baby or toddler brush to gently clean the teeth with an ADA approved baby toothpaste
- Never allow babies or toddlers to go to bed with a bottle or sippy cup
- Avoid consumption of sugary snacks and beverages as these contribute to tooth decay
Around the age of two or three, parents can begin to teach their children how to properly brush their teeth every morning and evening. Many children enjoy performing this task by themselves, but it is critical that parents still follow up each solo session with proper brushing techniques and flossing to ensure thorough cleaning. Between the ages of six and eight, most children have enough experience with the process to begin brushing, flossing and rinsing without assistance.
Benefits of Teaching Early Oral Hygiene
In addition to building a strong oral hygiene foundation for adulthood, teaching children about how to properly care for their teeth and gums ensures their current and future health in general. The prevention of cavities and gum disease sets the stage for a healthy mouth that is less likely to develop more extensive and more costly problems in later years.
Regular visits to your child’s dentist will also help him or her to develop a positive association with this essential part of life. Children who begin seeing a dentist regularly before the age of three tend to harbor fewer irrational fears concerning dental work than those who wait longer. These positive associations generally follow them into adulthood, ensuring a lifetime of routine dental visits and improved oral health.
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