When making important decisions about your children’s health and well-being, don’t forget about their teeth and gums. Compared to kids with poor oral health, children who establish good oral hygiene habits at a young age are more likely to continue excellent brushing and flossing as adults, experience far fewer dental problems throughout life, maintain a positive self-image, and perform better in school. As a parent, you play a vital role in helping kids establish proper dental care — and smiles — that last a lifetime.

Early dental care prevents dental diseases.

Developing good oral hygiene is also the first line of defense against many common dental issues, such as plaque, gum disease and cavities. Studies show that dental decay is the most common chronic childhood disease in the U.S., and left untreated, may lead to pain and infection that cause problems with speaking, eating and overall health.

Teach children the importance of good oral hygiene.

The good news is that cavities are almost completely preventable with regular visits to the dentist and consistent dental care at home. Parents can help their children maintain healthy teeth and gums by encouraging the following habits:

  • Begin good oral health habits as soon as your baby’s teeth are visible. Start by using a washcloth to gently clean your children’s teeth and gums.
  • Teach your children to brush all surfaces of their teeth for two minutes, twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Assist your children until they are able to brush by themselves.
  • Floss between your children’s teeth and along the gum line to remove trapped food and plaque that lead to gingivitis and decay.
  • Make oral hygiene fun by letting your children choose their kid-friendly toothbrush and toothpaste in their favorite color, character, or flavor.
  • Sing a song or play a video while brushing to make time pass quickly and to ensure your children are brushing for the full two minutes.
  • Encourage your children to brush their teeth immediately after drinking juice or eating candy to prevent decay.
  • Avoid giving children too many sugary foods and drinks, especially between meals, which promote decay and cause enamel damage.
  • Increase water intake throughout the day to help neutralize the acids that cause cavities.

Establish a healthy relationship with your child’s dentist.

Finally, one of the most important ways to maintain a healthy smile for your children is to schedule regular checkups with their dentist. Choose a dentist who understands the unique development of children’s smiles and specializes in dentistry for kids — from infancy through adolescence. Following a thorough cleaning and evaluation, your child’s dentist can discuss cleaning techniques for keeping your kid’s teeth cavity-free, as well as answer any questions concerning your child’s oral health.

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