Being a kid is fun! And more often than not, childhood is filled with a plethora of tasty treats that are sugary and delicious. But all this can lead to less-than-fun results for their teeth. Overindulgence on these sugary snacks and drinks can lead to tooth decay, cavities or gum disease in your child.
In fact, According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Oral Health Program, 80% of schoolchildren are affected by tooth decay and gum disease, and more than 50 million school hours are lost annually because of oral health problems, all of which affect a child’s performance at school. Additionally, one third of orthodontic cases are due to premature loss of primary teeth due to decay or infection.
Don’t let bad oral health habits lead your child to cavities and other diseases. Brighter.com dentist, Dr. Dyan Van De Velde, says children benefit most with this four-tier approach: 1. Early professional care, 2. Good home habits, 3. Good dietary habits, 4. Fluoride supplements.
Below, Dr. Van De Velde offers tips and advice to help parents promote healthy teeth and cleaning habits in your little ones:
- Take them to the dentist! Doctors typically recommend making the first dental visit by age two. Usually this visit is an "introductory" one to start familiarizing the child with the dental office. As they get older, visiting the dentist once or twice a year is the first step to detecting and preventing any oral health problems in your child, including any malformations of the teeth or jaws, or any need for orthodontics. Preventive care is much less expensive than delaying the dentist and winding up with a major procedure that costs exponentially more money. (Using services like Brighter.com can help make these trips more affordable.) Additionally, taking your child to the dentist at an early age will help to instill good cleaning habits and foster a healthy relationship with the dentist.
- Don’t forget to brush! Every parent knows kids should brush their teeth at least twice a day (many children need help brushing until age 8, and later for flossing). To encourage good dental habits in your children, make it fun! In addition to using a toothbrush with adorable cartoon characters, find a fun, animal-shaped kitchen timer to encourage them to brush for the recommended two full minutes. Or, hum their favorite song with them for the duration of their brushing—songs last about two-three minutes, so this will help them understand how long they should spend cleaning their teeth.
- Floss, floss, floss! You should start flossing your child’s teeth as soon as they start touching side by side. Help your child develop a habit of gently flossing once a day to help remove food that can get stuck between his or her teeth, and also to reduce plaque buildup. Brushing alone can’t reach every surface of the tooth, so instilling flossing habits early will help your child maintain good oral health.
- Adjust their diet. Add crunchy fruits and vegetables to their meals and snacks. Apples, celery and cucumbers have high water volume that helps dilute sugar and wash food particles from their teeth. These foods also take longer to chew, which stimulates saliva production that helps to prevent tooth decay as well. Not to mention, these fruits and vegetables are good for your overall health too!
- Fluoride is your friend. Adding vitamins and fluoride pills or drops to your child’s diet will help strengthen the enamel of their teeth as they are being formed. Talk to your dentist about whether this is a good option for your child. These drops/pills are recommended until age 13.
- Ask about sealants. Most children benefit from sealants, which are protective coatings placed on the teeth to help protect them from decay. Ask your dentist if these might be a good preventative measure that you could take to protect your child’s teeth.
- Avoid sugary drinks. Soda and fruit juice—and many sports drinks as well—are acidic and loaded with sugar. These two things together destroy teeth. Try to avoid them, dilute them, or at least rinse their mouths with plain water after use.
- Limit the sweets! Sugary and sticky foods produce plaque acids that cause tooth decay. Multiple exposures to sweets throughout the day is much worse than a dessert followed by brushing. So, when your child does indulge in a sweet treat, remind them to brush and floss after (or at least rinse with water).
- Protect them during sports. Sport mouth guards are seen more and more to protect the teeth during sports activity, and to prevent damage and loss that can affect someone for the rest of their lives. If you have an athlete in your family, get to the dentist for a mouth guard and keep those teeth safe!