There are a lot of critical ties between a healthy mouth and a healthy body. Setting your child up for an overall healthy life includes taking care of their physical, emotional, mental and oral health needs. Oral health care should begin the moment your child’s first baby tooth pops through. Setting your children up with a strong oral health care foundation will keep it at the top of their health priority list for the entirety of their lives.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that parents schedule their child’s first dental appointment once their first tooth erupts through the gums or no later than the child’s first birthday.
Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease. At least 20% of children (1 in 5) have untreated tooth decay between the age of 5 and 11. If tooth decay is left untreated, it can cause eating and speaking problems. It can also lead to self-esteem issues that can interact with social and emotional development. Placing a regular focus on daily oral hygiene is key to creating a sound routine and keeping your children’s oral health in tip-top shape.
Good hygiene starts early
You can begin a daily oral hygiene regimen before your infant even has their first teeth. Starting early sets your child up for positive oral health that can last well into adulthood. Here are some key tips, based on age, to add to your child’s daily routine now.
Infants & Toddlers
- Wipe gums 1-2x per day with a clean, soft cloth after their first feeding and before bedtime at night. This reduces the number of bacteria and sugars on their gums that could cause cavities in their growing baby teeth under the gums.
- When first teeth start to emerge, begin brushing with a soft-bristled toothbrush and water twice a day. No fluoride toothpaste should be used prior to the age of 2. Speak with your child’s dentist about adding toothpaste into their oral hygiene regimen.
Children 2 and older
- Brush teeth twice a day with flouride toothpaste for at least two minutes using a soft to medium bristle brush.
- Brush in small circular motions and cover all areas of each tooth.
- Floss at least once a day.
- Rinse once a day using a fluoride rinse mouthwash.
- Speak to your dentist about fluoride tablets and molar sealants.
Toddlers are still very much in the learning stage when it comes to oral hygiene. Help your toddlers brush and floss their teeth. Ensure they are using a pea-size amount of toothpaste, spit and rinse with water without swallowing the toothpaste.
Regular dental exams keep oral health in check
Your child should visit the dentist twice a year for routine dental cleanings and exams. These twice a year visits keep their oral health in check while stopping cavities and other oral health problems at an early stage, before they become more serious. Dental visits are also a helpful way to include outside encouragement to children about the importance of oral health and daily oral hygiene. Oral x rays should be performed at least once a year and at the discretion of the dentist.
A balanced diet makes a difference
Diet plays a huge role in many facets of a healthy life, oral health included. Foods that are high in acid and sugars can have detrimental effects on the enamel of your teeth at any age, but it is particularly important for children who are still learning how to properly maintain a healthy mouth. Sugar is the biggest culprit when it comes to oral health issues. Avoid allowing your child to consume foods that are high in sugar content, especially sticky sugars (caramel, gum, toffee, fruit snacks) that can stay on their teeth for hours. On rare occasions, when they do consume food that has a high sugar content, make sure they brush their teeth as soon as possible after consumption.
Teaching your children about positive oral health is essential to overall healthy life. Prioritize oral healthcare from an early age and maintain a consistent demeanor about sticking to a routine that keeps their mouth healthy. Encourage and remind them to brush and floss twice a day and avoid junk foods high in sugar to keep their teeth at their best. Schedule dental checkups regularly and talk about the importance of dental hygiene with your children often.