Dental care for a young child

Preventive dental care is important throughout your child’s life. The earlier you start good habits, the more likely those habits are to stick with them. Good oral hygiene at home and scheduling regular checkups with their dentist helps ensure a bright, healthy smile.

See more tips on oral care for your young child below.

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Setting a good example

  • As part of the natural learning process, little ones are expert mimics, and you can take advantage of this talent. In addition to ensuring they eat a balanced diet and avoid extra-sugary treats, you should model that behavior.
  • Brush and floss your own teeth daily while your child is watching and he or she will intuitively pick up the importance of good habits at an early age. As soon as your child shows interest, offer a toothbrush of his or her own and encourage your toddler to “brush” with you. (You’ll find toothbrushes with chunky, short handles that are easy to grip.)

Brush for them

Most children don’t have the dexterity necessary to thoroughly clean their own teeth until they’re about 6 or 7, so you’ll need assist with twice daily brushing. Try different tactics to make brushing fun: flavored toothpaste, a toothbrush with a favorite character on it or singing songs about brushing. The primary goal is to instill healthy oral habits at an early age to set your child up for a lifetime of healthy, cavity-free teeth.

  • Help them brush their teeth at least twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Also be sure to brush the top surface of their tongue.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste to remove food particles and plaque from the tooth surfaces.
  • Clean between their teeth by flossing at least once a day. You can also use a mouthwash to help kill bacteria and freshen breath.
  • At Wild About Smiles, we do understand that our families have busy schedules, that is why we recommend parents help their children with their nighttime brushing.

Keep their teeth safe during play

If your child plays sports that involve contact, we recommend the use of a mouthguard. This includes T-ball, basketball and soccer. Ask us about having a custom-fitted mouthguard made to protect teeth, lips, cheeks and gums.

Choose a fluoride treatment

When choosing an at-home fluoride product (such as toothpaste or mouthwash), always check for the American Dental Association’s (ADA) seal of acceptance. Products marked with the ADA seal of approval have been carefully examined by the ADA and approved based on safety and effectiveness. Take care of your teeth and smile bright with dental fluoride treatments!

Thumb-sucking in young kids

Along with favorite blankets, teddy bears and nap time, thumb sucking can be one of the most comforting aspects of childhood.

When they are infants, thumb-sucking is no cause for worry; but as kids get older, it can become an issue.

What is normal thumb-sucking behavior?

Most children begin sucking their thumbs or fingers from a very young age; many even start inside the womb. Sucking is a natural reflex for an infant, and it serves an important purpose. Sucking often provides a sense of security and contentment for a young one. It can also be relaxing, which is why many children suck their thumbs as they fall asleep.

According to the American Dental Association, most children stop thumb sucking on their own between the ages of 2 and four. They simply grow out of a habit that is no longer useful to them. However, some children continue sucking beyond the preschool years (although studies show that the older a child gets, the lower the chances are of continuing the habit).

If your child is still sucking when his or her permanent teeth start to erupt, it may be time to take action to break the habit.

What signs should I watch for?

First, take note of how your child sucks his or her thumb. If the sucking is passive, with the thumb gently resting inside the mouth, it is less likely to cause damage. If, the thumb sucking is aggressive, placing pressure on the mouth or teeth, the habit may cause problems with tooth alignment and proper mouth growth.

Extended sucking affects both the teeth and the shape of the face and may lead to a need for orthodontic treatment in the future.

If at any time you suspect your child’s thumb sucking may be affecting his or her oral health, please give us a call and schedule a visit. We can help you assess the situation.

How can I help my child quit thumb sucking?

Should you need to help your child end the habit, follow these guidelines:

  • Always be supportive and positive. Instead of punishing your child for thumb sucking, give praise when he or she doesn’t.
  • Put a band-aid on your child’s thumb or a sock over the hand at night. Let your child know that this is not a punishment, but rather a way to help remember to avoid sucking.
  • Start a progress chart and let your child put a sticker up every day that he or she doesn’t suck. If your child makes it through a week without sucking, he or she gets to choose a prize. When the whole month is full, reward your child with something great (a toy or new video game); by then, the habit should be over.
  • Making your child an active participant in his or her treatment will increase the willingness to break the habit.
  • If you notice your child sucking when he or she is anxious, work on alleviating the anxiety rather than focusing on the thumb sucking.
  • Take note of the times your child tends to suck (long car rides, while watching movies) and create diversions during these occasions. Explain clearly what might happen to the teeth if he or she keeps thumb sucking.

Whatever your method, always remember that your child needs your support and understanding during the process of breaking the habit of thumb sucking.