Many parents don’t realize tooth decay is a threat from the instant a child’s first tooth peeks through their gums. Early childhood cavities (ECC) are the most common chronic early childhood diseases in the U.S., and they often go untreated in kids under the age of three.

Given how hard it can be to get your child to brush their teeth, it’s no wonder parents struggle to keep cavities at bay! Dental hygiene for kids can be difficult, and the best practices for children aren’t always the same as the ones you use yourself.

Whether your child is picky about their floss or resistant to the idea of daily brushing, the right tips can help. Here’s what you should know about how to care for your child’s teeth.

Start Early

Dental hygiene should be a lifelong habit, so get your kids used to it early! Even before your child starts teething, it helps to run a damp washcloth across their gums every evening. This can remove unwanted bacteria and get them familiar with oral cleaning.

Once your child’s teeth begin to grow in, use a soft infant toothbrush to gently brush them. You can use a tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste. When your child begins growing teeth that touch each other, you can floss them as well.

As your child grows, be sure to continue either brushing their teeth for them or supervising their oral care. Even older children are prone to swallowing toothpaste or mouthwash if left alone.

Set a Good Example

Since you’ll be supervising your child’s oral care anyway, why not set a good example while you’re there? Kids love mimicking grown-up behavior, so a great way to teach them good habits is to display them yourself.

Whenever you can, brush and floss your teeth alongside your growing child. This allows you to make your child’s brushing feel like a fun family habit instead of an unwanted chore.

Make a Pediatric Dental Appointment

Experts recommend bringing children to see the dentist within six months of their first tooth coming in. You should expect to bring your child for their first visit by the time they’re a year old at the latest.

This recommendation can seem premature to some parents, but even infants can get tooth decay! Maintaining kids’ oral health can help you keep painful conditions like infection and inflammation at bay.

Pediatric dentists are experienced in helping kids feel safe and comfortable, even in a new environment. They’ll perform a full exam of your child’s teeth, gums, and bite to check how their mouth is developing. They can also answer your pressing questions about teething, hygiene, thumb-sucking, and more.

Try Different Oral Care Options

Kids tend to be picky about what goes in their mouths, and that’s not restricted to the foods on their plates! If your child seems resistant to brushing or flossing, experiment with different oral care options to see what sticks.

Let them pick their toothbrush, for example, to choose a style, color, or character they love. You can also let them try new toothpaste flavors, as long as fluoride remains the active ingredient, to see if they prefer one over others.

Traditional floss can be difficult for small fingers to work with. If your child seems ready to start flossing, consider starting them out with floss picks, which are easier for kids who are still improving their motor skills. Some water flosser brands even make flossers designed for young kids, and they’re worth a shot if your child dislikes physical flossers.

Fill the Time

Two minutes is the recommended brushing time for everyone, kids included. Of course, those two minutes can seem endless to distractible young minds!

That’s where fun timers come in. There are plenty of two-minute songs, quick videos, and even free tooth-brushing apps that help kids understand how long they should brush. Some of these also give instructions to help kids remember when to switch to a different part of their mouth.

In addition, some children’s toothbrushes have built-in timers that vibrate or shut off once their two minutes are up. You can also have your kids use an hourglass timer you store with their toothbrush.

Educate Your Child

Your child doesn’t need to know the science of oral hygiene, but they should know the basics of why their brushing habits matter. Many parents start by explaining that cleaning helps remove “sugar bugs” and that children should hunt them down with their toothbrushes.

Another great way to do this is through a book. There are plenty of engaging children’s books about oral health. These books can help your child feel more comfortable with the idea of losing a tooth, brushing bacteria away, and visiting the dentist for the first time.

Reward Good Behavior

One of the best ways to maintain your child’s pediatric oral care is to make it as fun as possible. If your child seems to dislike brushing, offer rewards for good behavior.

Put a chart in the bathroom, for example, and let your child add a sticker to it every time they brush. You can even offer them a reward like a new toy after they’ve gotten enough stickers in a row. If you offer food as a reward, be sure to give them something like apple slices instead of candy or sweets.

Make Dental Hygiene for Kids Easy

Oral health for children can be trickier than parents expect, but the tips above can help. From setting a good example to making brushing fun, every small step you take can encourage lifelong oral hygiene.

At Grow Pediatric Dentistry, we want to be your partners when it comes to dental hygiene for kids. Our team is proud to offer South Austin and Lakeway families expert care in a comfortable environment. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.