How to Keep Your Children’s Teeth Healthy
Every parent wants their child to have the perfect teeth. That generally means straight pearly whites with no tooth decay. But is it achievable? We’re here to tell you that it’s not as difficult as you may think. With your help, there are a few practical steps that you can take to ensure that your child grows up with healthy teeth, gums, and mouth.
What to Watch Out For
Cavities, also known as caries or tooth decay, are a common issue that many people, both children and adults, face. In Australia, more than 41% of children aged 10 years and younger have cavities. But what are cavities, and how do you know your child has them? A cavity occurs due to a decayed tooth, which eventually creates small holes or openings. It can be any of the following types:
- Smooth surface cavity where holes are on the smoother sides of the tooth
- Root cavity on the surface over the root
- Pit and fissure cavity on the chewing surface of the tooth
Many children develop cavities because let’s face it, they love to eat sweet snacks and sip sugary drinks. Most kids are also not a fan of brushing their teeth. As a result, teeth are slowly damaged, which can be left untreated. Cavities do not heal on their own and will get larger over time. They will reach deeper into the teeth and cause several issues, such as toothaches and infection. Severe tooth decay can even lead to tooth loss.
But cavities are not the only problem. Some kids can have gum disease, which is manifested by swollen or red gumline. Sometimes, it can cause bleeding. Gum disease should be addressed as quickly as possible.
Misaligned teeth are another issue that shouldn’t be ignored. Improper alignment can be due to genetics or specific child behaviours, such as thumb sucking. Often, crooked teeth are not considered detrimental to kids’ oral health. But in reality, this misalignment can affect their dental and overall health. Crooked teeth can cause headaches, speech problems, and jaw disorders. They also prevent proper cleaning or brushing because of abnormal positioning.
Help Improve Your Child’s Oral Health
The good news is that it’s easy to guide children when it comes to caring for their teeth. Cavities, for example, are preventable. So is gum disease. If teeth misalignment is due to genetics, it may not be avoided but can certainly be treated.
Here are effective ways that parents can help to ensure their children have strong, healthy teeth:
1. Be a Good Role Model
“Monkey see, monkey do,” an expression that parents know well. Kids love imitating people, especially the adults around them. As a parent, it’s your job to be your child’s role model. That includes demonstrating good oral habits like brushing twice a day and flossing once per day. Don’t forget to show that you enjoy doing these activities.
2. Start Brushing Early
You may find it odd to begin cleaning your baby’s mouth before any teeth have erupted. However, this step is crucial in helping them develop a solid oral routine, which they can continue practising as they grow up. Even if your baby’s mouth does not have a single tooth, you should take the time to clean their gumline after each feeding session. As soon as you see the first tooth, you can begin brushing gently.
There’s no need to use toothpaste when brushing your baby’s teeth. Water is enough at this point to avoid ingesting too much fluoride. As your child grows, you can slowly introduce them to toothpaste. Start with very small amounts, similar to rice size and then build it up to pea-size.
3. Floss Early
You probably think that brushing early is too much work already, but here’s another one to add to your list of tasks. As an adult, you may have heard how important it is to floss, and it’s just the same for your child. When do you start flossing? It’s recommended to floss when two teeth touch.
4. Teach Children the Correct Way to Brush and Floss
Your child will not know the proper brushing and flossing techniques unless you teach them. That’s why it is not a good idea to send the young ones to the bathroom to take care of their oral health independently. Kids under the age of three usually begin to use toothpaste, but they may still find spitting it out difficult. That’s why you should stick to a rice-size amount. Once the child is old enough and can spit rather than swallow, you can switch to a pea-size amount.
Kids want to see for themselves how brushing and flossing work, so it would help to show them videos of these activities. You should also demonstrate how to spread the toothpaste on their teeth and gums. Remember to tell the child to brush their tongue. Children usually require assistance when brushing until they are seven or eight years old.
5. Encourage Children to Choose Healthy Foods
Brushing and flossing are efficient, but they work even better in keeping your child’s teeth strong and clean when paired with healthy food. If you always give your son or daughter sugary food, they are more likely to develop cavities. That’s why parents should make healthy food choices for their children. While it is not harmful to give kids lollies, sweetened drinks, and chocolates, it’s smart to restrict their intake of sugary stuff.
If your child does consume sweets, make sure that they brush their teeth after. Older children can also chew sugarless gum, which is a safe and beneficial way to strengthen the jaw and produce saliva. Chewing gum can also help wash away small pieces of food, freshen breath, and balance acid in the mouth that cause tooth decay.
6. Sharing is NOT Caring When It Comes to Oral Health
Many parents share utensils with their kids. If your child is friendly, they may also give their sippy cups to other children. The mouth is full of bacteria, which can easily be passed to other people, including your child and other kids. You don’t want this to happen, so be sure to sanitise all items your child may put in their mouth.’
7. Make Dental Hygiene Fun
Kids find brushing and flossing a chore that they may want to avoid. However, you can turn the experience into something fun so that they look forward to it. Some of the things that you can do include letting them choose their toothbrush, which has their favourite cartoon character or colour. There are also toothpaste products that come in various flavours.
It’s helpful to read books, show pictures, or watch videos that demonstrate the benefits of healthy teeth. Brushing should take about two minutes, so use a timer to know you’re brushing adequately. To make it more fun, play your child’s favourite song, which can also help you keep track of time.
Don’t despair if you notice that your child does not enjoy brushing and flossing. It’s normal. You can offer rewards so that they continue to care for their oral health. Rewards are not necessarily sugary treats or anything sweet. Instead, give your child a gold star or fruit slices that they love.
8. Make Sure to Visit the Dentist
Part of the dental routine is to visit the dentist once to twice a year. If possible, you should involve your children whenever you visit the dentist. This helps turn each appointment into a normal part of their routine. It’s recommended to introduce your child to the dentist within six months following the appearance of their first tooth. You can also take them to the dentist on their first birthday, whether or not they have their first tooth.
Visiting the dentist can be terrifying for some kids. It always helps to talk to your child before you head to the office and tell them about what they can expect. If you have any concerns, such as crowding or tooth loss, be sure to discuss them with the dentist. Kids who play sports may require mouthguards.
Once again, it’s crucial to make the experience fun, especially if you see that your child is not too keen on visiting the dentist. You can play games or have an entertaining activity right after the dental appointment.
At Oasis Orthodontics, we aim for your child to have the best and most rewarding experience possible. It’s not unusual for kids to get scared of sitting in the dentist’s chair. However, our friendly staff is well-versed in keeping them calm and happy. That way, they will look forward to their next visit.
Does your child have their first tooth? Children who are seven or older can now wear an orthodontic appliance, such as braces, to correct teeth misalignment. Contact us or schedule an appointment so that we can help you in taking care of your child’s oral health.