Are you concerned about your child’s dental health? You have good reason to be! A recent article by HealthyChildren.org shared that tooth decay is one of the most common childhood diseases affecting kids in the United States. When you consider just how much impact your oral health has on your overall long-term health, it shows how important healthy dental habits are.
As we have noted time and again, poor oral health such as cavities and gum disease are associated with life-altering conditions. These can include heart disease, premature birth, and cognitive decline in older adults. We’ve also shared information about how oral conditions such as children’s airway issues can negatively impact a child’s development. In short, healthy mouths are necessary for healthy bodies. The key to getting started is that healthy habits must be taught from day one. It is, as you will read below, never too early to help your children care for their teeth (or in the case of babies, gums).
We’ve compiled a few top tips to help parents help their kids create healthy dental habits that they can carry with them all through their adult lives. This will improve their oral health and their overall wellness. Read on to learn more!
Help Your Child Brush and Floss Regularly
Regular brushing and flossing are both important actions in the fight to protect teeth and gums from deterioration and decay. Parents can help children develop healthy habits — even if their own dental care routine is not perfect.
Babies are unable to use saliva to wash bacteria from their mouths as effectively as adults. However, they are still prone to the same issues caused by lingering bacteria and food/liquid particles. Use a soft finger brush or damp washcloth to gently clean the baby’s gums. You may use infant toothpaste if your pediatrician allows it.
Provide your child with a small, soft toothbrush and children’s toothpaste (or a limited amount of adult toothpaste). Supervise your child as they brush, ensuring they properly clean their back molars and tongue and avoid swallowing toothpaste. Help your child floss to protect their gums. You can make the process more fun by providing fun accessories like character toothbrushes, singing timers, and flavored toothpaste.
Your child should brush their teeth at least twice per day with fluoride toothpaste. Children should also floss regularly, with help from their parents to ensure they are using the proper technique.
While teens may be more persnickety about being reminded to brush their teeth, it is important to reinforce healthy habits. If your teen has braces or Invisalign aligners, stress the importance of brushing and flossing after meals.
Are you confident that you and your kids are brushing and flossing correctly? You might be surprised to learn what you could be missing during your routine. During your next routine appointment, ask your hygienist or dental assistant to observe how you brush and floss to ensure you’re on the right track. Don’t be embarrassed to ask questions. Improper brushing and flossing are extremely common and no one loves helping people care for their teeth more than hygienists and dental assistants!
Limit Sugary Foods and Drinks
Sugar is the primary culprit in most childhood cavities (adults too, for that matter) and that’s no surprise. Whether celebrating a candy-heavy holiday like Halloween or navigating the third classroom birthday party with cupcakes in a month, kids encounter a lot of sugar. That doesn’t even take into account all the sugar that is added to seemingly healthy food options such as yogurt or peanut butter. Sugar is everywhere and it is difficult to avoid. That’s why it’s important to limit it where you can.
You can help your child limit their sugar intake by offering healthy alternative options, particularly when it comes to snacks. Limiting sugary drinks like soda can go a long way toward reducing your child’s chance of tooth decay. For example, add water to your toddler’s juice. Purchase sugar-free sports drinks for your teen while encouraging them to drink more water.
These are simple steps that reduce the bacteria breeding ground that sugar can cultivate in your child’s teeth and gums. You can also encourage your child to brush after consuming some sugary foods. However, be cautious when brushing after acidic foods and beverages. Soda or citrus juices can weaken enamel and cause teeth to become damaged during brushing.
Visit Your Family Dentist Regularly
One of the most important ways to give your child a healthy start is to get them used to regular dental care from an early age. One of the main reasons that adults avoid the dentist is out of fear. By instilling a healthy relationship with dental care during your child’s developing years, you can help remove a common barrier to adult dental wellness.
Select a kid-friendly dentist experienced with serving families and invested in helping your child have a positive experience. For example, Sierra Smiles has worked to develop a practice suited to people of all ages and stages in life and we love helping children have supportive, fear-free appointments. These types of accommodations will help children develop positive associations with visiting the dentist.
Ideally, your child should visit the dentist for an examination and cleaning twice per year. Regular dental cleanings will remove the build-up of harmful plaque that can damage primary and adult teeth and cause problems for children when they reach adulthood. Additionally, regular visits to the dentist can allow your child’s dentist to monitor your child’s development. Your dentist can help you spot problems that can be corrected much more easily (and affordably) while your child is young, such as a poor bite or jaw alignment, airway issues, missing teeth, and much more.
Our Goal is to be Your Partner
We know that helping kids be enthusiastic about daily dental care can be frustrating. Almost every parent can point to phases in which their kids refused to brush or brushed carelessly to get it over with. At Sierra Smiles, our goal is to be your partner in helping your kids develop the habits they need to care for their teeth properly. Give us a call today to book your child’s next dental appointment. We would love to welcome your family to ours!