People treat children like fragile china because their bodies are not mature enough to defend against illnesses. The situation is the same when it comes to their oral health.

Since they don’t know basic dental care practices yet, parents and caretakers are responsible for ensuring that children will grow to have strong and healthy teeth. This way, you can keep their smiles cavity-free and ensure that they function, sleep, and eat well both at home and at school.

Want to know what you can do to achieve this? Here are five ways to keep your children’s teeth healthy and strong:

1. Teach your child how to brush properly.

Regular brushing is crucial even before a child gets his first tooth.

Clean your baby’s gums and tongue regularly. Once his baby teeth begin popping up, you can start brushing them as well to prevent cavities.

Be sure to use age-appropriate oral care products like an infant toothbrush or a clean or soft washcloth for babies. As he grows older, let him use soft-bristled brushes with just the right head size based on his age. You can also use fluoridated toothpaste, so long as you keep it to a minimum (about the size of a grain of rice).

Of course, toothbrushing is more than just fancy toothbrushes and fruity-flavored toothpaste; it’s more about proper cleaning of the teeth. Below are some things you should start teaching your little one about this vital part of his oral hygiene:

Brushing frequency (how often) and length (for how long)

Regular tooth brushing should be done to ensure dental health. Dentists recommend brushing at least two times a day, like after eating breakfast and before going to bed.

Of course, brushing after every meal and snack is most preferred. Doing so reduces the amount of time that food debris remains in the mouth, which also lessens the opportunity for cavity-causing bacteria to feed and produce acids that break down the teeth enamel.

Teach your child to avoid rushing through this oral hygiene task. Tooth brushing should be done for at least two to three minutes for optimum effect.

If he has a hard time keeping track of time, have him use a timer or song to help monitor how long he’s been at it.

Where to brush

One common issue with children brushing on their own is that they don’t usually clean all their teeth. To ensure your child doesn’t make the same mistake, teach him a brushing pattern to focus on all his teeth, not just the front ones.

Remind him to also brush the teeth at the back and along the sides of his mouth. Your family dentist should be able to show him the best way to clean the teeth without harming the gums.

2. Prevent “bottle mouth” or “bottle tooth decay.”

While it may be easier to put children to sleep with a baby bottle, doing so could lead to the poor dental health of your little one.

Whether you have a baby or a toddler, make sure to steer clear of this habit as the sugar content in milk tends to cling to your child’s teeth and feed decay-causing bacteria. This can then lead to the so-called “bottle mouth” or “bottle tooth decay” that can cause his front teeth to become pocked, pitted, and discolored.

In some cases, bottle mouth also causes cavities, which can lead to tooth extraction.

If it cannot be avoided, only give your child a bottle in bed if it contains clean drinking water.

Once he turns six months old, you can replace baby bottles with a sippy cup. Pick those with a straw or hard spout to prevent liquids from pooling around your little one’s teeth.

As his first birthday approaches, begin teaching him to use a cup. Once he turns one, he should already develop the necessary motor and coordination skills to drink from a cup independently.

3. Show your child how to floss.

Flossing is another crucial part of oral hygiene that children should be doing at least once daily. This helps get rid of food particles stuck in between teeth and other tight spaces where the toothbrush can’t reach.

When they floss for the first couple of times, children might feel a bit strange. Let them know that this is normal. Then, show them how to floss correctly and gently to avoid harming the gums.

Demonstrate tearing off the appropriate length of floss to use and wrap it around your middle or index finger. Next, put it in between the teeth, moving on to the next while adjusting the floss’s exposed portion until you get through each tooth.

4. Feed your child healthy, teeth-friendly foods.

You’ll want to avoid giving your child sugary foods and drinks often as these can compromise his oral health. As mentioned earlier, sugar feeds bacteria that produce acids which cause cavities, leading to tooth decay.

Instead, stick to these teeth-friendly snacks:

  • Apple – Contains fiber that helps scrub away plaque.
  • Eggs – Rich in protein, calcium, and vitamin D that help ensure oral health.
  • Carrots and celery – Contain plenty of water and fiber that help clean the teeth’s surfaces.
  • Yogurt, cheese, milk, and other dairy products – High in calcium, phosphorus, and casein which help shield teeth enamel from bacteria-caused acids that leave the teeth weak and brittle.
  • Seeds and nuts – Rich in phosphorus and calcium that help restore the teeth’s enamel.
  • Broccoli and leafy vegetables – Excellent sources of vitamins and minerals like folic acid that help improve and maintain oral health.

5. Introduce your child to a pediatric dentist.

Children should already be acquainted with a dentist after their first birthday. During this first visit, the dentist explains the correct oral hygiene techniques. He can also perform a modified exam to check the youngsters’ choppers.

Besides regularly checking their oral health, visiting the dental clinic often also helps children get used to the dentist and feel more at ease during these checkups as they grow older. If possible, bring your child to a pediatric dentist who’s trained to handle dental issues most common in children.

One Final Piece of Advice: Lead by Example

Leading by example is the best way to teach your child about oral hygiene. If he sees you brushing, flossing, eating nutritious food, and visiting the dentist regularly, he’s bound to follow suit.

As a bonus, tooth brushing with your children is an excellent bonding time for the family. It also helps make this oral hygiene habit a part of their daily routine rather than just a chore.