Four Tips for Better Oral Hygiene for Your Child
Encouraging your child to develop good oral hygiene habits from a young age will help them to progress through adolescence into adulthood free from teeth and gum issues and medical conditions in other areas of the body associated with dental problems.
Most kids will lose their baby teeth as they approach or enter their teen years but these primary teeth play an important role in paving the way for their adult permanent teeth.
Baby teeth also aid the development of clear speech and help to maintain a natural facial appearance. Children with decayed or stained teeth can suffer emotionally through embarrassment and loss of self-esteem.
So taking care of baby teeth requires as much attention as looking after adult teeth.
Cavities are a common problem among youngsters who still have their baby teeth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), tooth decay affects 20 percent of youngsters aged five to 11. A routine of regular brushing and flossing will help to ensure your child doesn’t become one of them.
Tip #1 – Make Sure Your Child Brushes and Flosses Properly and Regularly
Most youngsters have all 20 baby teeth by the age of three. Dentists typically advise parents to brush their child's teeth for them until around the age of six.
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends supervision of a child’s tooth brushing until about the age of eight. This presents the opportunity to show your little one how to brush using the proper methods to remove food debris and bacterial plaque that can damage gums and teeth.
It’s also a time when you can encourage your youngster to adopt a regular routine of dental healthcare that will continue throughout their life.
Teaching your child how to brush
Brushing should be carried out for at least two minutes twice a day, preferably in the morning and just before bed.
Encourage your child to use this brushing process, using a soft-bristled brush:
- Brush the outer and inner surfaces of the teeth.
- Brush the chewing surfaces of the teeth.
- Brush the tongue at least once a day for fresher breath.
Teaching your child how to floss
Getting your youngster into the habit of flossing is just as important as encouraging them to brush their teeth. Brushing by itself won’t get rid of all the plaque and harmful bacteria it contains.
As your child becomes more dexterous – typically around the age of 10 – you can teach them to floss for themselves by showing them how to:
- Slide the floss between their teeth without snapping it down onto the gums.
- Arc the floss in a C form around each tooth, moving it up and down the sides.
- Use a new length of floss on each tooth.
Tip #2 – Encourage Healthy Eating Habits
Too many sugary snacks and drinks and acidic beverages and foods can quickly result in cavities in children’s teeth.
Teeth-friendly foods include seafood, eggs, pasta, melons, bananas, cucumbers, lettuce, milk, and poultry. Try to moderate your child’s intake of high-acidity fruits such as oranges, pears, peaches, apples, pineapples, plums, and raspberries. Other foods high in acid are pickles, barbecue sauces, tomatoes, and salsas.
Drinks like sodas are particularly damaging for teeth because they not only contain acidic additives but also have a high level of sugar, which further increases the risk of cavities. Studies have shown that diet sodas are just as harmful as regular sodas in weakening tooth enamel.
Discourage bad habits
Discourage your child from chewing on things other than food. If habits like this continue as your little one gets older, long-term dental damage may occur. Hard objects like ice can break teeth and are also a choking hazard for young children. Other negative oral habits include chewing on pencils and pens, which can result in damaged or badly-spaced teeth.
Tip #3 – Make Sure Your Child Gets Regular Dental Exams and Professional Cleanings
Check-ups by a dentist every six months will detect any signs of teeth or gum issues in your child before they become serious. Lakeside Dental adds that getting your children in the habit of going to a children's dentist regularly will help them keep it a habit as they grow up.
The condition of your youngster’s oral health can also point to issues with their overall wellbeing. Besides tooth decay and gum disease, a dentist can spot signs of many other health problems including diabetes and jaw disorders.
Find a family-friendly dental office for your youngster. An adult-oriented practice could make your child apprehensive. The premises of a dentist who specializes in treating children will be designed to be welcoming for youngsters. Take along a couple of your little one’s favorite toys to add a familiar comforting touch.
Preventing tooth loss and gum problems
Regular dental visits also give your child’s dentist or dental hygienist the opportunity to carry out professional cleanings, which play a major role in maintaining your youngster’s oral and overall health.
A professional cleaning – with special instruments designed for effective removal of deposits from teeth – can help to keep enamel strong and leave your child with fresh-feeling polished teeth.
Oral health benefits of a professional cleaning include:
Preventing tooth loss and cavities. Plaque is a leading cause of tooth decay. The acid contained in plaque can eat away at tooth enamel – the protective outer layer of a tooth – and result in decay and loss of teeth. Regular professional cleanings will reinforce your child’s at-home routine of oral hygiene to help keep plaque at bay.
Preventing gum disease. Plaque also targets gums. A professional cleaning will significantly reduce the risk of your child getting a gum infection like gingivitis.
Tip #4 – Set a Good Example
Children learn by copying their parents, so if you’re practicing good oral hygiene, they will too. Lead by example by making brushing and flossing a fun family activity. Take your youngster shopping to pick out their own toothbrush and toothpaste to get them more involved in the oral hygiene process.