Yes, the child who drove you crazy all day needs to be taught about dental hygiene. As soon as babies have teeth, they must learn to care for them. Tooth decay can start easily if proper dental care and feeding habits are not in place.
How to start
- Start as soon as they have teeth. The earlier the better.
- You can start with a wet toothbrush, to get them used to the sensation. If you know your little one is teething, be mindful of areas that may have teeth just underneath. They may be tender.
- It may help to let them watch you brush first. I had to do that with my daughter. It’s foreign to them, and they may feel more at ease if you show them you do it too. It’s a classic monkey-see-monkey-do moment.
- If you’re dealing with a child with more than a few teeth, you’re going to have to help them get all surfaces of their teeth.
- If your baby wants to hold the brush, let them, and guide their hand to the proper spots.
When we first started, my daughter and I would trade and we’d brush each other’s teeth. She would only brush the front, and It was the only way she’d let me hold her brush and help her get the hard-to-reach spots. She would clumsily “brush” mine at the same time. I’m pretty sure I haven’t suffered any permanent damage. Doing this is certainly not for everyone.
Children understand what’s happening better when routines are in place. They know the order in which events take place every day. Incorporating a solid oral hygiene habit into a bedtime or morning routine will make it easier to keep these good habits while getting older.
-Develop a routine. Even on the tough days where nothing went as planned, keep the routine. A quick job is better than nothing and it still gets the point across that brushing must be done every day.
-Do it at the same point in the bedtime routine. If you read before bed, brush before or after, and keep it that way. The same principle applies to the morning.
Finding a toothpaste
If you are concerned about using fluoride toothpaste or that your child might swallow it, there are other options. I was worried that my baby girl wouldn’t spit out the toothpaste. But I still wanted her brushing to be effective at preventing decay.
There are multiple brands of kids toothpastes with safer ingredients. Mostly, they contain erythritol and xylitol, sweeteners that have effects similar to fluoride and are safe to be swallowed. We tried one paste by the brand “Hello”, a watermelon fluoride-free toothpaste for kids. It was pretty good! If interested, check it out.
Praise them if they completed the job, especially on the days it took longer because they were cranky or not feeling well. A favorite activity, book, or anything after brushing can be the difference between an easy brushing and a serious struggle.
Lollipops are good for this, but not just any Lolli. There are lollipops specifically formulated with erythritol and xylitol, the same ingredients in the fluoride-free toothpaste. One brand of these lollipops is “Zollipops”. That way, their teeth are further protected, and they feel rewarded. They provide positive reinforcement that makes the process a little easier doesn’t harm their teeth. Kara was crazy about pineapple flavored ones, but the assorted pack is best if your child likes variety.
Go slow. One missed brushing won’t do them harm, and if you have to start without paste first, it’s better than not brushing. It took time, trial, and error for our family. Make it fun in any way you can.When kids have fun doing something new, it makes them way less likely to resist. Get goofy, even when it’s difficult. Doing it with them is a good bonding experience. It makes it even more rewarding for them to be just like Daddy/Mommy. When you hear their first “all clean!”, it’s a beautiful moment. When you see their smile as they grow, you’ll be glad you were diligent in maintaining it.
Tell me on social media what your routine is like, and what products you’ve found for kids!
A version of this post was previously published on Andrewak and is republished here with permission from the author.
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