Does the health of your child’s mouth take a back seat when the demands of the school year kick in? Even we struggle with keeping up our kids’ oral hygiene when the school-year craziness sets in! Since tooth decay is the #1 oral health concern among young children, we’ve compiled some tips to help you start the school year strong and keep their cute little smiles healthy all year long:
“Baby teeth are just going to be lost anyway, right?”
Sometimes parents place less importance on baby-tooth hygiene because they know these teeth will be lost soon anyway. In reality, hygiene is extremely important in the early years, and cavities in baby teeth can lead to dental problems in the future. For example, when a baby tooth has to be extracted early due to decay, or if the decay is big enough that a portion the tooth has been lost, the surrounding teeth will shift, leading to orthodontic issues when the permanent teeth erupt.
Also, consistent early hygiene keeps the bacteria in your child’s mouth “healthy,” and keeps the more harmful bacteria strains from getting a foothold. When a child’s early hygiene is neglected, the dangerous cavity-causing bacteria populates their mouth, resulting in cavities both in the baby teeth and the permanent teeth.
Good Dental Habits for Life
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the Brush, Book, Bed program to encourage a nighttime brushing habit:
- Each night, help your children to brush their teeth.
- Read a favorite book (or two)!
- Get to bed at a regular time each night.
In addition to a predictable routine, setting a good example is the best motivator for a child to make oral hygiene a part of their daily routine. However, young children need help and supervision to make sure that they’re adequately removing the plaque (the sticky coating that contains bacteria and causes tooth decay).
Until a child is 6-7 years old, they will need an adult to help them brush their teeth. Even then, parent supervision is still necessary to check for adequate plaque removal, and to check for brown or white spots that may be early tooth decay. Choose a soft-bristled, child-sized toothbrush, with just a small amount of toothpaste.
For children over 3, use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. The fluoride strengthens the outer surface of the teeth and makes them much more resistant to decay. Experiment to find a toothpaste flavor that your child likes, and encourage them to spit and rinse instead of swallowing.
The most important thing to concentrate on when brushing your child’s teeth is to clean each surface of each tooth thoroughly. Without adult help, most children will focus only on the front teeth, and leave the back teeth and inside surfaces un-brushed.
Nutrition and Oral Health
Sugar is the biggest offender when it comes to tooth decay, because cavity-causing bacteria like it even more than your child! Decreasing the amount of time teeth are exposed to sugar and the frequency of sugar consumption decreases the risk of tooth decay. (This is true for adults, too!) Limit sugary treats, but when your child does have sugar, encourage them to consume it quickly. For example, a child who consumes a sugary drink quickly and rinses with water is at much less risk than a child who carries the drink with them and takes a sip every few minutes. In particular, watch out for sugary snacks that stick to the teeth, like caramel and even dried fruit snacks, because they adhere to the teeth and release sugar for hours.
Regular Dental Visits
During your child’s check-up we will examine them for any signs of dental disease. At Bizeau Dental, we structure early dental visits to be fun, confidence-building experiences. We want you and your child looking forward to the next visit, because a history of positive dental visits sets the stage for a lifetime of healthy teeth. If further dental treatment is necessary, we will do everything we can to make your child comfortable.