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5 Bedtime Tips to Keep the Mouth Monsters Away

By June 20, 2024July 16th, 2024Blog

Stories, snuggles, and “sweet dreams” might be your kids’ must-have menu at bedtime, but as your Naperville dentists, we also want to add, don’t skip an oral hygiene routine at bedtime! After all, it can make a huge difference when it comes to cavity prevention for your kids. Keep sugar monsters at bay with these five tips from your Naperville pediatric dentist at Innovative Pediatric Dentistry, for whichever stage your child is in.

1. Start Early With Babies (6 months to 2 years old)

It’s never too early to start cavity prevention! For babies, oral hygiene begins even before those first teensy weensy teeth come up. Here’s what to do to keep those gummy smiles sparkling:

  • Wipe the Gums: As you know, babies eat almost around the clock… and sleep that way, too. So there isn’t so much a “bedtime routine” when it comes to oral care for babies. Instead, use a clean, damp cloth to gently wipe your baby’s gums after every feeding. This helps remove bacteria and sets the stage for good oral hygiene habits.
  • Introduce a Soft Toothbrush: The first has appeared, yay! Start brushing twice a day with a child-sized soft-bristled toothbrush and a tiny smear of kids’ fluoride toothpaste. This is crucial against early childhood cavities.
  • No Bottles to Bed: Avoid putting your baby to sleep with a bottle of milk, formula, or juice. Your wee one’s teeth will end up coated in sugars while they sleep, which can contribute to cavities. However, if your baby is only soothed to sleep with a bottle, fill it with water instead.

2. Encourage Fun for Toddlers and Preschoolers (2-5 years old)

As babies grow into walking, talking tornados, their oral hygiene needs to evolve with them. For this age group, a big focus is making bedtime oral care enjoyable. A few tips and tricks for making brushing your kids’ teeth fun in the evening? Try these:

  • Brushing Bedtime Stories: The top thing you can do to encourage cavity prevention for toddlers or preschool kids is diligent brushing, twice a day. Make brushing an extra fun activity at night by pairing it with listening to a bedtime story. Play one from your favorite storytime app or Spotify.
  • Use A Song As A Two-Minute Timer: Play or sing your kiddo’s favorite song as you brush their teeth to help the recommended two-minute brushing time go by in a flash. Try several verses (aka animals) of “Old MacDonald’s Farm,” “B-I-N-G-O” or “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain” are some that come to mind.
  • Let Your Child Brush Their Own Teeth (First): Let your child first brush their own teeth before you finish up with a more thorough cleaning. Letting them brush at this young age is a great way to give them an early sense of independence over their oral care while your follow-up is key for preventing cavities in your kids’ teeth.
  • Introduce Floss: We’ve had many parents ask us about when to start with floss for their kids’ teeth. The simple answer is: start flossing between teeth when they touch. This can happen in these early childhood years with a few teeth and with more teeth touching in elementary school.

3. Set Up School-Aged Children For Success

How to encourage good oral care and prevent cavities in school-aged kids? Teach the right techniques and provide the right tools. Help your kids build their own oral hygiene bedtime routine with the following:

  • The Best Brush and Floss Order: Dental professionals like your Naperville pediatric dentists agree: the more effective brush and floss order is floss then brush. Flossing first removes food particles and plaque between teeth, and following up with brushing cleans the surface of teeth and gums and anything your child’s dislodged from flossing.
  • Floss At Night: Now, should you floss at night or in the morning? The American Dental Association says that either is effective, but the upside of flossing at night is removing food debris and plaque that’d otherwise sit on your child’s teeth while they sleep. You also may have more time at night for flossing since there’s no need to rush off to school!
  • Use Fluoride Toothpaste: Make sure your child uses a fluoride toothpaste in a fun flavor they like to strengthen tooth enamel and prevent cavities.

4. Establish A Reward System

Positive reinforcement can motivate children from toddlers through school-age to stick with their oral hygiene routine:

  • Sticker Charts: Create a sticker chart for nightly brushing and flossing. A full week (or however long you decide) of consistent habits can earn a reward.
  • Special Treats: Rewards don’t have to be sugary treats. In fact, we encourage non-sweet treats like extra playtime, a new book, or a fun outing.

5. Model Excellent Oral Hygiene Yourself!

From toddlers on up, your kids take their cues from you. Yes, a weighty responsibility but when it comes to dental health, it’s a win-win. Model excellent oral hygiene at bedtime and you’ll do your own oral health a favour AND your kids will catch on that dental care is cool. Whether it’s letting your toddlers brush your teeth (yes, sloppy but fun!) or brushing your teeth together with your elementary-school aged kids, modeling that you love caring for your own smile goes a long way in them taking care of theirs.

Psst… need even more tips? Download our Kids’ Teeth Brushing Guide for more fun ways to inspire your kids to love caring for their teeth!

Adding Professional Pediatric Dental Care To the Mix

As pediatric dentists, we can safely say that cavity prevention for kids starts at home, including a great oral hygiene bedtime routine. But keeping those mouth monsters away is also a team effort with your dental care professionals. Level up with regular visits to your pediatric dentist for professional cleaning and check-ups, plus tailored advice on how to prevent cavities. Your child will have a blast with us — with our high tech approach and expert team, Innovative Pediatric Dentistry is all about making kids dental care fun, comfortable, and effective!

Contact us for your next check up.