February is the American Dental Association’s Nation Children Dental Health Month. I was a preschool teacher and director in my former life, so I know all about the importance of pediatric oral care. We brought pediatric dentists into our schools every February to teach proper dental hygiene for kids. I thought I knew how important it was.
Little did I know how much more I would learn about kids dental care when my son’s dentist sat me down and told me my 3-year-old had ten cavities and needed a root canal. You read that right. My sweet boy who I had been taking to the dentist since he was 1-years-old, and had been to the dentist every year his whole life, had thousands of dollars of dental work ahead of him, was at risk for an abscess and might have to be put under anesthesia to fix his teeth.
I will never forget walking out of the office, sobbing, weeks before Christmas, terrified of what was to come. I thought we followed all the rules, we were under the care of a dentist, and I thought I knew how to take care of my children’s teeth. Where had we gone wrong, how had I failed my son? I was devastated and scared and out a load of cash right at the holidays, but most importantly I didn’t want to put my baby under for dental work.
As it turns out, we did not have to use anesthesia and thanks be to God; we were able to do the root canal before his tooth abscessed. But we have learned a ton in the last two years with our dental woes. We are best friends with our dentist, and my daughter is benefiting greatly from our wisdom and so can you. Here are my top 12 tips for healthy kid’s teeth. Learn from us and save yourself, your wallet and your children from the dentist!
1.No Milk or Juice Throughout the Day
I know this is a hard one, but this is a rule that I already knew and one that was easy for us with my son. He did not have milk throughout the day past 18 months when he quit breastfeeding. He had milk with breakfast and dinner and brushed his teeth afterward. We never introduced juice, so he was used to drinking water from a sippy cup that I started giving him when he was 7-months-old.
If you have a baby, do yourself a favor and start the sippy cups of water early, so they are used to it. Breaking the all day juice and or milk habit is no fun and can rot their teeth from having the sugar coating their teeth all day.
2.No Fruit Snacks, Gummy Candy or Dried Fruit
This one was part of the reason my son had so much damage to his teeth. We never did fruit snacks or gummy anything (even gummy vitamins are really bad for their teeth) but the year of the cavities my son was obsessed with dried fruit. I thought I was doing good that he was snacking on dried fruit and not junk but those snacks backfired and I didn’t even think about them being stuck to his teeth all day.
Look for children’s vitamins that are not gummies and always brush teeth after eating vitamins and breakfast. Use fruit snacks, gummy candy, fruit chews and dried fruit sparingly as a treat and brush afterward!
3.Get In Their Mouths
Sound weird? It’s not; this was a great piece of advice given to me by a couple of dentists. Children need to be comfortable with your hands in their mouths so that when they go to the dentist office, they are already used to the feeling of someone messing with their teeth.
Make tooth brushing time a priority with your children as soon as they have teeth. Floss, even if you are not getting in between teeth yet, take turns brushing and make it fun. Count their teeth, so they are used to holding their mouth open. The more comfortable you can make them, the better the dentist will be able to see what’s going on in their mouth, the more pleasant an experience they will have, and your children will be able to tolerate a full exam and cleaning early on.
4.Use Floride When Their Ready
I know this is a little controversial, but I am now a fluoride believer. I was too afraid to use fluoride with my son, so his teeth were weaker and more susceptible to damage. A tiny rice size sliver of fluoride toothpaste is appropriate as soon as your child can spit out after each brush. Every child is different, but my daughter is 2-years-old and has been spitting out tiny amounts of fluoride toothpaste since shortly after her 2nd birthday.
5.Brush Morning & Night
Of course, you already know this, but it seems like a lot of us, myself included, don’t apply this to babies and toddlers. That’s a huge mistake. If your baby or toddler has teeth and is still falling asleep with milk, the sugar from milk is coating their teeth all night and can cause cavities and decay.
Milk has a lot of sugar, about 13 grams per cup so now is the time to change this habit. Again, the best time to train your child to brush their teeth before bed and after vitamins and breakfast, is as early as possible.
6.Invest in a Good Toothbrush
We started using Sonicare toothbrushes for our whole family after our dentist recommended them. They’re expensive, but all of our dentists agree that they remove the most plaque, so it has been worth the investment for us. You could also try the cheaper electronic toothbrushes from the grocery store first to see if your child will use them. Below is a link to the one our kiddos have, click to find it on Amazon where we buy all the things. (What would I do without AmazonPrime!?!)
7.Visit the Dentist Sooner Rather than Later
I hear you; I know there are plenty of you out there right now saying that you didn’t take your child to the dentist until they were 5 and their teeth were perfect. That is awesome, and I’m a little jealous of those healthy teeth and your genes.
But most dentists recommends bringing your children in when they start getting teeth or around 1-years-old. I would rather be safe than sorry. And although I did start taking my son to the dentist when he was one, we were going annually. We found out the hard way how much damage can happen in a year so now we go every six months like clockwork.
8.Know Your Water
The drinking water in our area has appropriate fluoride levels for keeping teeth healthy and strong, but our son was drinking spring water at the time, so his teeth weren’t getting what they needed. The spring water combined with non-fluoride toothpaste was a damaging combination.
Check with your pediatrician to make sure the water in your area is good for your children to drink. If your water is not up to par, you can always use nursery water that is purified and has the correct amounts of minerals and fluoride for your child’s teeth. Below is a link to the brand we have used.
9.Don’t be Afraid to Floss
I already touched on this, but people think I am crazy to floss my 2-year-old’s teeth. Here’s the thing, most of my son’s cavities (and most cavities for anyone) were in between the teeth where food gets stuck, and your toothbrush can’t get to. Teach your child early how important it is to floss, let them “help” you, then make it part of your regular nightly routine.
Like most mamas, I am in a constant battle with my children about their sugar consumption. It’s also a constant challenge to manage the ever increasing added sugar in our food, and our family, friends, and schools that love to fill my people with sugar. Obviously there is zero nutritional value in sugar, and it does more harm than good in your body, and the same is true for your teeth.
Sugar in your mouth can create a perfect environment for decay and tooth enamel damage. Bad bacteria in the mouth is what leads to cavities; sugar feeds bad bacteria increasing your risk for decay, cavities, and infections so limit sugar of any kind as much as possible and brush after consumption.
There is little research on probiotics for your mouth, but the idea is that if probiotics can increase the good bacteria in your gut creating a healthier gut, then it can do the same for your mouth. Our entire family take probiotics daily to aid in a healthy gut which in turn creates a strong immune system, prevents yeast overgrowth and helps stop yeast infections while on antibiotics. Probiotics can do the same for your mouth bacteria by increasing the good bacteria, so the bad bacteria doesn’t take over and wreck havoc. The link below is to is our favorite kids probiotic.
12.Don’t Beat Yourself Up, Mama
Seriously, it’s not your fault. You are doing your very best to take care of your little people. Including their dental health, even when it means wrangling squirming babies, wiggling toddlers and chasing down wild preschoolers with snapping little razor teeth. Dental care for the tiniest creatures is no easy feat. I commend you and feel your pain in this ever present and daily challenge.
Here’s the other thing, a lot of mothers are embarrassed to talk about their child’s dental issues, so you might not hear about this much. Just like I did, mamas tend to think they’re responsible and have done something wrong. Don’t be ashamed. Talking to other mother’s who had faced simular experiences gave me so much support. Open up, and you will be surprised how many families have faced the scary dental procedures. And check back here for more, I’ll be sharing our experience more in depth next week.
I hope our experience can save you and your family some grief, time and money. I have learned more than I ever wanted to know. I beat myself up pretty bad blaming my choices but the truth is that a lot of it is hereditary. I know people who have little to no dental care for their children and seem just to get lucky. I also now know just as many people who work hard to create the best dental health care plan possible for their children and still seem to be living at the dentist office. So cut yourself some slack, know that you are not alone and just do your best.
If using these tips will be a big change for you and your family, don’t miss this week’s post about how to tackle big changes. I know you can do it, mama, I believe in you!
Please, friends, remember that I am not a doctor and any decisions you make for your child and their oral health care should be approved by your pediatrician and pediatric dentist. All products I recommend are products my family uses, and I believe in. Some of my links can be affiliate links and if you purchase I will receive a small commission for the referral. Thanks for buying my coffee, it makes all of life possible! ?