Your child’s mouth is more important than you realize. Sure, straight, white teeth are great, but it goes much deeper than this. Interestingly, oral health is directly linked to overall health. A failure to properly care for oral health from the start could lead to years of problems.
Importance of Oral Care in Childhood Development
Many parents neglect oral hygiene and dental care for their children. But just because baby teeth get replaced by permanent teeth, doesn’t mean kids can forget about brushing, flossing, and other healthy habits.
As Colgate explains, “The foundation for healthy permanent teeth in children and teenagers is laid during the first years of life. Poor diet, poor habits of food intake and inadequate toothbrushing habits during the first two years of life have been shown in several studies to be related to tooth decay in children. The development of caries in primary teeth further increases the risk of developing caries in permanent teeth.”
Unfortunately, research reveals that millions of kids have bad oral health. In particular, 42 percent of children experience tooth decay, which makes them three-times more likely to miss school and other important activities.
5 Ways to Protect Your Child’s Teeth
As a parent of young children, you still have a significant say in your child’s oral health and hygiene. Here are some ways you can look out for them:
- Make Brushing and Flossing Habitual
Kids who don’t like to brush their teeth typically weren’t exposed to it from an early age. As such, it feels more like a chore than a habit. The sooner you can expose your kids to brushing teeth, the less trouble you’ll have.
“Dental hygiene should begin when your child is a baby,” FamilyDoctor.org advises.
“Start using a soft child-size toothbrush around the age of 1 or 2. You should brush your child’s teeth with water at least twice a day. You also can add a small dab of toothpaste that doesn’t have fluoride in it. This type of toothpaste is safe for your child to swallow.”
You can introduce flossing once a child reaches the age of five or six. At this point, it’s more important to expose them to the practice and let them try. You can focus on technique as they get older.
- Ensure a Healthy, Balanced Diet
Children who consume lots of sugary drinks, candy, and sweet foods are at a higher risk for developing cavities than kids who are given a more balanced diet. Try eliminating or significantly reducing your child’s intake of soda, sweetened drinks, and fruit juice. And if your child does have sugar, teeth should be brushed immediately after consuming.
Believe it or not, chewing gum can actually be healthy and helpful for older kids. It strengthens the jaw, washes away bits of food, and helps produce saliva. Gum can even balance acid that leads to tooth decay.
- Protect Mouth in Contact Sports
If your child plays contact sports, encourage them to wear a mouth guard. This protects your child’s teeth, tongue, gums, and lips from injury.
For best results, get a mouth guard that you can mold to your child’s teeth. Any sporting goods store should be able to point you in the right direction.
- Schedule Regular Checkups
Don’t wait until your child is in grade school to take them to their first dentist checkup. Experts in the medical community agree that children should see a dentist by their first birthday.
Not only do early childhood visits help keep teeth clean, but they also save money. According to a CDC report, costs are nearly 40 percent lower over a five-year period for children who see their dentist before the age of five.
- Ask About Fluoride Treatments
Most public water sources contain fluoride. However, if your water supply doesn’t – or if your dentist believes your child isn’t getting enough fluoride – applying a fluoride treatment will help protect their teeth from cavities.
Healthy Kids Are Happy Kids
Kids just want to have fun and feel good. By making smart choices about their oral health and hygiene, you can ensure they’re able to do both. You’ll also set them up for a lifetime of success by putting them on the right course to form healthy practices and habits in adulthood.