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Starting to think about your New Year’s resolutions? Be sure to include a few that level up your kids’ oral health! To help you out, your San Diego orthodontist and pediatric dentist at San Diego Smile Pros offer 10 ways for your kids to maintain healthy teeth throughout the year. Here’s to keeping cavities at bay and smiles beautiful in 2024!

1. Brush and Floss as a Family

Start the year off right by ensuring brushing and flossing is a family affair. Set a daily routine that everyone follows — adults and kids. When parents model diligent oral care, kids are more likely to follow with their own great oral care. A few essential tips? Consider the following in your routines, and you’re on your way to healthy teeth for your kids:

  • Brush together for two minutes. Two minutes is the recommended amount of time for thoroughly brushing all areas and surfaces of your teeth. It might seem like ages for kids, so you can ensure they’re brushing for a long enough time by brushing together.
  • Brush your kids’ teeth if they’re younger than eight years old. Up to that age, kids don’t always have the patience or dexterity to brush their teeth well.
  • Make brushing fun for kids. Gamify brushing and flossing with a kids’ tooth brushing app, or play your kids’ favorite music to make brushing more fun.
  • Simplify flossing with floss picks. We know flossing teeth can be tricky for young kids with little fingers. Set your child up for flossing success with floss picks, an easier way for young kids to maneuver between their teeth with floss.

2. Upgrade to Fluoride Toothpaste

If your kids don’t use fluoride toothpaste, make the switch in 2024! The best toothpaste for kids? A fluoride toothpaste with a taste they like. Fluoride is a must because it strengthens enamel and helps prevent tooth decay. Just be cautious with how much fluoride toothpaste your kids use: a rice grain-sized amount is sufficient for kids ages two to three, while a pea-sized amount is sufficient for kids ages three to six. Young children are more likely to swallow toothpaste when brushing, and too much ingested fluoride can discolor or pit their adult teeth.

3. Regular Dental Check-Ups

As a pediatric dentist, Dr. Hayes specializes in dentistry for kids, from infants through the teen years, and she is passionate about making dental visits fun and anxiety-free for kids.

How often should your kids visit Dr. Hayes? A good rule of thumb is twice annual dental check-ups, although since everyone’s teeth are different, Dr. Hayes might suggest your child come in more often if they’re prone to cavities. Routine visits to the dentist can catch dental problems early and prevent minor issues from becoming major ones that could require more time and cost to address.

As for when to start bringing your child to dental cleanings and check-ups, it’s better to start sooner rather than later, which begs the question, “How about babies? When should my baby go to the dentist?” The American Dental Association suggests a first dental check-up happens when your baby’s cute first tooth appears. As for at-home dental care, brushing infant teeth means using fluoride-free toothpaste (which you’ll use until about age two) and brushing gently with a small soft-bristled, baby toothbrush twice a day.

4. Limit Snacking

Make it a goal to help your child cut down on sugary snacks and the frequency of snacking this year. Replace sweet or processed snacks with healthier, whole-food options like fruits, veggies, or nuts. And when snacking happens, remind your child to rinse with water afterward.

Dr. Durschlag and Dr. Hayes also recommend allowing adequate time between snacks and meals for your oral environment to return to a less acidic pH. Why? When you eat or drink anything other than water, your oral bacteria feed off the sugars and release tooth-damaging acids as a byproduct. Your teeth need time for your saliva to help neutralize those acids, as well as wash your teeth in remineralizing calcium, phosphorus, and fluoride.

5. Maintain A Smile-Friendly Diet

Encourage a diet rich in calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D for your kids. Foods that are good for teeth include cheese, yogurt, leafy greens, and almonds. These foods also help strengthen teeth. Also, provide lots of food rich in vitamins C and A, like bright-colored fruits and vegetables, to help with gum tissue health.

Of course, keep sugary drinks, sweet treats, and other foods that contribute to cavities to a minimum. However, if your kids love sweets — and most do — offer sugar-free treats like ones sweetened with xylitol, which helps prevent tooth decay.

6. Say Hello to Water

Swap out sugary beverages with water. It’s not only great for your child’s overall health, but the benefits of water for your teeth include keeping the mouth hydrated, fighting against bad breath, washing away harmful oral bacteria, and rinsing out food debris.

7. A First Orthodontist Visit At Age Seven

As your San Diego orthodontist, Dr. Durschlag wants to include information about when it’s a good idea to visit an orthodontist. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends a first visit happen around age seven. Why? Children have a mix of adult and baby teeth by that age and are likely to have their first permanent molars. An orthodontic specialist like Dr. Durschlag can detect potential issues with your child’s oral development or bite.

Rest assured, your young child won’t walk out of their first orthodontic with comprehensive braces. In fact, most children don’t need early orthodontic treatment, and Dr. Durschlag will monitor their oral development as they grow. However, if recommended, early detection and treatment can help kids avoid complex or lengthy orthodontics, surgery, or tooth extractions later on.

8. Invest in the Right Toothbrushes and Keep’Em Fresh

You may have noticed there’s a lot of choice at the store when it comes to toothbrushes. Dr. Hayes and Dr. Durschlag suggest choosing soft-bristled manual or electric toothbrushes for your kids and replacing them regularly. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention suggests getting a new toothbrush every three to four months or when the bristles look worn out.

9. Reward Healthy Habits

Let’s be honest, external positive reinforcement goes a long way with kids. With this in mind, consider creating a reward system for good oral hygiene habits. Maybe a fun family outing when your kids have achieved set milestones with their oral health. Think cavity-free dental check-ups or a certain number of two-minute brushing and flossing sessions.

10. Set a Tooth-Healthy Example

As we mentioned earlier, modeling is key. Kids learn from their parents, so set a great example of excellent oral hygiene and you’re more likely to have kids who prioritize healthy teeth. Consistency is also paramount when it comes to oral health: practice diligent brushing and flossing every day, choose nutritious foods that strengthen teeth, and ensure you visit the dentist regularly.

Bringing Out Your Kids’ Best Smiles in 2024

Keep these 10 tips in mind and be well on your way to keeping your kids’ teeth healthy in the year ahead. Start on the right foot by scheduling your dental check-ups or initial orthodontic consultations with us. Your kids will love visiting our fun, kid-friendly office, and you’ll find peace of mind with our high-tech approach and world-class care.

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