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The key to establishing healthy sleeping habits for your children starts with consistency. Aside from special occasions and family celebrations, your children should have a routine bedtime schedule. Having an established bedtime routine makes it easier for children to predict and know what to expect every night. When it comes to a child’s development, predictability equals stability.
If you’re struggling with getting your child to bed each night, these tips will help you create the perfect bedtime routine.
The Brush, Book, and Bed Message From AAP
Instilling proper oral health care in very young children starts by having them brush their teeth before bed. This small nightly ritual will be a helpful building block towards a lifetime of a healthy mouth. The brush, book, bed program created by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has a simple and clear message for parents:
Brush. Kids should be brushing their teeth every night before bed. Supervised brushing is always recommended, and younger kids may need some parental assistance. For children under the age of 3, a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste is recommended to avoid fluorosis. For children, ages 3 to 6, use a pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste. Always avoid eating or drinking before bed to keep the teeth clean throughout the night.
Book. After brushing, read your child a few books. Snuggle up together and read the books aloud.
Bed. Sleep is essential for the growth and development of children. Once you’re finished reading together, it’s time to finish your routine and put them to sleep.
The Brush, Book, Bed message and program are intended for children 6 months – 6 years. The program aims to improve oral health services in the home by linking oral health information with messages about early literacy, sleep, and establishing a regular nighttime routine.
Good Oral Health Practices Start Early
Your child should have their first dental cleaning and exam by their first birthday, or sooner if there are any concerns over their teeth’ development. Regular visits to the dentist will help establish another type of routine and get your child comfortable with their teeth cleaned and examined. Your pediatrician can help to answer specific questions about your child’s oral health, too.
Excellent oral health practices can start almost immediately after a baby is born. Use a soft, warm washcloth to wipe your baby’s gums after feedings if possible. Never put babies to bed with a bottle filled with milk. When it’s time to introduce solid foods, choose healthy foods that reduce the risk of tooth decay.
For Children Under 3
Teeth brushing can start as soon as you see that first tooth pop through the gums in your baby’s mouth. Toddlers can use a smear of toothpaste the size of a grain of rice to help clean their teeth’ surfaces.
For Children Over 3
A pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste is safe to use while brushing twice a day. Always let your child practice brushing with the toothbrush themselves, so long as you get a turn to clean their teeth too.
All Children Should Be Supervised While Brushing
All young children need help brushing from an adult to make sure a good job is done. When possible, teach children to spit out extra toothpaste, but don’t rinse with water first. The little bit of toothpaste left behind is beneficial to their teeth! Once teeth touch, they can also floss them. Visit your dentist regularly, starting with your child’s first birthday or sooner if there are concerns. Your pediatrician can answer questions about oral health, too. Remember, the last thing to touch the teeth before bed is the toothbrush!
Keep Bedtime Routines Manageable
Not every night will go as planned when it comes to bedtime. Keeping bedtime routines manageable with your lifestyle is the best way to stick with a routine. When allowing for flexibility within the routine, keep things under control by limiting the choices on things like how many books you read before bed. Bedtime routines work best when they are no longer than 30 minutes.
Feel free to ask us about any lingering questions regarding the brush, book, and bed method during your child’s next dental appointment with Aubrey Baudean DDS.