Kid’s Guide to Brushing and Flossing
Something pretty amazing happens when a baby is between six months and one year old. Baby teeth, hiding inside their jawbones since birth, begin to appear. One day, they will begin to fall out, but that doesn’t mean kids shouldn’t take good care of them. Healthy teeth help kids chew food and speak in a clear manner. Unhealthy teeth make eating difficult and painful and can lead to serious dental issues down the road. So how can kids best take care of their teeth? The first step is to brush for two minutes twice a day, using a soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride is an element that helps prevent cavities. For best results, kids should use a dab of fluoride toothpaste the size of a pea.
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Once kids have their toothpaste loaded up on their toothbrush and ready to go, the next step is to brush using short strokes. Kids younger than six may need a grown-up to help them brush. Whoever is doing the brushing needs to be gentle to avoid irritating their gums. And don’t just brush the front of the teeth! The back and top need cleaning, too, and so does the tongue. Brushing the tongue freshens the breath and removes germs. It is best to make up a brushing pattern to make sure that all of the teeth get the care they need. Kids should start with the upper teeth, brushing the outer surface. Next, they should move to the lower teeth, continuing to brush the outside. Once they brush the outside for one minute, they should begin to brush the inside, staying on the lower row. Next, move to the upper row, brushing the inside. To finish, brush the biting surfaces on the top and bottom. Once kids have brushed for two minutes, they need to spit the toothpaste out instead of swallowing it. Following this routine at least twice a day will help kids avoid painful dental problems.
Flossing is a great way to clean areas that are prone to developing cavities. When is the right time to start flossing? That’s simple. When two teeth emerge that touch, parents should use floss picks or sticks to clean between the teeth. Why not use regular floss instead? Regular string floss may be too hard for parents to use in smaller mouths. Kids may also have a harder time when they begin flossing on their own. Much like brushing, kids can begin to floss on their own around the age of six. Regardless of who is doing the flossing, they should do it after brushing instead of before. Why is that? It’s because the floss actually lends a helping hand to the toothpaste still in the mouth! It helps to spread the toothpaste and its cavity-fighting fluoride throughout the mouth. In fact, flossing should be the last part of a kid’s dental health routine before they go to bed. It keeps plaque from harming teeth overnight. For best results, kids or parents should use a saw-like motion to slide the floss between the teeth. The floss should be in a “C” shape against one of the teeth before they slide it up and down against the tooth. Don’t forget about the back molars! Even though they do not have two teeth bordering them, they still need the cleansing power of floss.
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What else can kids do to keep their teeth healthy and prevent cavities? Using mouthwash is a good idea for kids old enough to gargle. Parents should watch their kids while they use mouthwash until they get the hang of it. To prevent cavities, kids should avoid sugary snacks and drinks. Cookies, candy, and soda can cause tooth decay if eaten too often. Low-sugar alternatives such as cheese, yogurt, and fresh fruit are a better choice. Even fresh fruit juice is high in sugar and is best if limited. Kids should drink it in one sitting and only have four to six ounces per day. For kids still using bottles, parents should put their kids to bed using water only. That’s not to say that breast milk is harmful to teeth. In fact, breast milk slows bacterial growth and acid production. Cow’s milk and juice can increase tooth decay if left on the teeth for too long. So what’s the best thing kids and parents can do to prevent cavities and keep their teeth healthy? It’s simple: Be consistent in their daily oral hygiene habits. Don’t forget to brush and floss at least twice daily!