By Dr Yao Xu DDS (Minnesota) General Dental Surgeon
Good oral hygiene is important for your child to keep his/her teeth for many years to come. Dentistry for kids focuses especially on this part. It seeks to ensure teeth grow out properly, have a good alignment, and are healthy as possible. In Singapore, women could expect to live for 86.1 years (second in the world), while the average male expectancy was 80.1 years (10th)*. This life expectancy means that your child will need to maintain his/her set of adult teeth from 6 years old to 86! 80 years of the same set of teeth requires good oral hygiene habits from young to protect against cavities and gum diseases.
*According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) report in 2017.
Dental care: Keeping your child’s teeth clean
Brush your child’s teeth twice a day – morning and night. You should be brushing your child’s teeth for them, as children have less dexterity and may likely lose track of where to brush. Our dentist, Dr. Yao Xu, often advises parents to continue brushing for their child until the child is able to write their full name – a good proof of dexterity! Until your child turns six, use a pea-sized amount of low-fluoride toothpaste on a child-size toothbrush. Once he’s six, you can use regular adult fluoride toothpaste. By the time your child reaches school, she might be starting to clean her own teeth. If so, it’s still a good idea for you to either start or finish the cleaning process. Your child will need your supervision and help until she’s at least eight years old.
5 Fun ways to brush your child’s teeth:
1. Brush Together
Copycat game. A child emulates whatever a parent is doing, so if your child regularly sees you flossing, she’s more likely to floss. For added fun, pretend to be a mirror the next time you and your kid brush together, and encourage them to copy your every move!
Brush during commercial break. During each 30-second commercial, have your child brush a quadrant of their mouth. By the time they’re done their show is back on. Just remember to turn off the TV at least a half hour before bedtime to ensure a good night’s sleep.
2. Use Videos or Music
Play their favorite song. The free app Brush DJ plays tunes in your library for two minutes and – bonus – lets you set reminders to brush twice a day, floss, use a mouthwash, and visit the dentist.
3. Turn tooth brushing into a game
Tell a story.You can also try reading an age-appropriate book about taking care of your teeth or letting your child practice brushing their stuffed animal’s teeth. Or even better, turn the brushing routine into an animal-chasing, sugarbug-beating game in their mouth!
Offer incentives. What kid doesn’t want to stay up a few minutes later at bedtime or be in charge of choosing the next movie for family night? Consider offering a simple reward or creating a rewards chart to encourage your little one to brush their pearly whites for two minutes. Don’t forget to praise them afterward for their amazing technique or super sparkly teeth.
4. Buy a Fun Toothbrush
Set a timer. Overturn an egg timer filled with colorful sand, and challenge them to keep brushing until all the sand has reached the bottom. Or buy your child a toothbrush that blinks or plays music for two minutes.
5. Try an Electric Toothbrush
Boost their dexterity. As small kids don’t have manual dexterity, a power toothbrush gives kids the boost to get that plaque off. Tip: If your child is hesitant to try one, let them feel the movement of the whirring bristles on the palm of their hand before starting. Also let your child pick out their favorite toothbrush and favorite flavor of toothpaste so they feel in-charge of their own brushing!
For more information on caring for your child’s oral hygiene, including parental visual evaluation and diet habits, please refer to our dentistry for kids blogpost at https://www.purenzdental.com/child-good-oral-hygiene-infant-brushing/