Oral health is a lifelong habit that can benefit you in so many ways, but how do you develop healthy teeth habits? The answer for most people is that these habits are developed and solidified as a child, which is why it’s so important to take time to teach your children about the value of good dental care.
Brushing and Flossing
Just like adults, children need to brush and floss their teeth every day—brushing twice a day, in the morning and at night, and flossing at least once a day. Ideally you will help your children brush their teeth for two minutes twice a day, and if that seems like a long time, there are lots of ways to help make it more fun, from musical toothbrushes to apps, games and videos. It’s also important for parents to understand that most children don’t have the manual dexterity to really clean their teeth properly until about the time they can tie their shoes. Up until that point, parents should be helping kids brush.
It can be tempting to let your child sip on fruit juice or milk throughout the day, or carry around a bag of Cheerios or crackers, but these habits can actually can serious harm to your child’s teeth. The longer sugars and starches sit on the surface of teeth, the more they feed harmful bacteria that can cause decay such as cavities and gum disease. Instead of allowing your child to “graze” on drinks and snacks throughout the day, stick to set meal times for food and snacks, and only drink water between meals.
Keep Sugar Consumption to a Minimum
Most kids love sugar, but that doesn’t mean they should be eating it all the time. The more your child consumes sugary sodas, fruit drinks, and candy, the more harm it can do to their teeth. It’s okay for kids to have sugar now and then, but it’s best if they eat it right after a meal—during meals your mouth produces more saliva, which can help wash away sugar so it doesn’t sit on teeth for long periods of time. Also cut down on sodas and sugary drinks such as Gatorade, fruit juice, and even milk.
Visit the Dentist Every Six Months
Dental visits should take place at least twice a year, and more often if your dentist recommends it for kids who are at high risk of tooth decay or gum disease. Even though your children will lose their baby teeth (primary teeth), early childhood tooth decay or tooth loss can cause problems. Children who lose baby teeth too soon don’t have anything to keep the other teeth in place, so surrounding teeth might move, leading to orthodontic concerns. Tooth decay also causes significant pain and missed school days, self-esteem issues, and problems chewing and speaking.
Practicing good oral hygiene from an early age is the best way to prevent problems with your mouth later in life. Teach your children how to care for their teeth and be sure to visit a pediatric dentist to reinforce those good habits.