Did you know? Teeth are the only part of our body that can’t heal itself. That’s why we have to protect them with all we can.
A child’s dental health is set in motion before their first baby tooth sprouts. That means you should start promoting healthy dental habits for your kid from day one. Childhood tooth decay can be prevented in the first place when parents help their kids avoid bad dental habits (and foster good ones). It helps to remember that oral and dental health habits, both good and bad, are formed early.
To get your kids’ teeth off to a healthy start, avoid these dental-health mistakes.
· Neglecting the dentist: Ideally, kids should visit the dentist within six months after their first tooth appears and no later than their first birthday. After the first visit, your baby should continue to have regular check-ups at least every six months.
· Middle-of-the-night feeding: Once your baby’s teeth begin to show, you may want to avoid those middle-of-the-night feedings. Lactose, which is the main sugar in breast milk, provides about 40 per cent of a breastfed baby’s calories. Baby teeth can become decayed if overexposed to breast milk at night because of that sugar. It is also recommended that you wash or wipe away the milk left in the baby’s mouth after every feeding to avoid pitting and discolouration on the teeth which can be a result of night time feeding.
· Sipping on Sippy cups all day: Constantly sipping milk, juice, or any sweetened liquid does not give a child’s natural saliva a chance to rinse away sugars that cause tooth decay.
· Thumb sucking with big-girl teeth: Once the permanent teeth start coming in — usually somewhere between the ages of 4 and 6 — thumb sucking can cause a misalignment of the teeth, which can lead to several issues, such as difficulty chewing.
· Giving pacifiers to pre-schoolers: Pacifier use (just like thumb sucking) can also affect a child’s oral health by interfering with normal tooth and jaw development. Pacifying into the toddler years can be a tough habit to break — the best time to stop allowing your baby to use a pacifier is at about age 1 to safeguard baby teeth.
· Swallowing toothpaste: Fluoride — the natural cavity fighter — is good for your kids’ teeth. But too much fluoride can cause fluorosis, a condition that creates white or brown spots on kids’ teeth. So while gooey toothpaste can be fun to play with, it’s important to teach your children not to swallow it — especially if it contains fluoride. So, until your child is old enough to be able to spit after brushing, you can use non-fluoride toothpaste specially made for kids’ teeth, just make sure they’re getting the right amount of fluoride with a fluoride supplement.
· Gnawing on pencils: In addition to introducing bacteria into the mouth, this habit can cause wearing away of tooth surfaces and can lead to dangerous oral trauma if a child falls while having a pen or pencil in the mouth.
· Nibbling on nails: Nail biting increases a child’s risk for bruxism, which is unintentional teeth grinding. In turn, bruxism can lead to facial pain and sensitive teeth. The best way to break this habit is to explain the dangers to your child and find alternatives and rewards.
· Chugging sugary sodas: Carbonated sugary colas and soft drinks are bad for everybody’s teeth, but they are particularly hard on newly erupted baby teeth. Unfortunately, statistics show that about 20 per cent of 1- and 2-year-olds are exposed to these drinks every day. Don’t let your baby develop a soft drink habit.
HOW CAN YOU KEEP YOUR TEETH HEALTHY?
Kids can take charge of their teeth by learning these steps:
- Brush at least twice a day: After breakfast and before bedtime. If possible, make sure your child brushes after lunch or after sweet snacks. Brushing properly breaks down plaque. Have your dentist show your child the best way to brush to get their teeth clean without damaging the gums.
- Take enough time while brushing – Make sure they spend at least 2 or 3 minutes each time they brush. If you have trouble keeping track of the time, use a timer or play a recording of a song they like to help pass the time.
- Be sure the toothbrush has soft bristles (the package will tell you if they’re soft). Replace your child’s toothbrush every 3 months. Some toothbrushes come with bristles that change colour when it’s time to change them.
It’s also important to visit the dentist twice a year. Besides checking for signs of cavities or gum disease, the dentist will help keep your child teeth extra clean and can help them learn the best way to brush and floss.
It’s not just brushing and flossing that keeps the teeth healthy. You also need to be careful about what they eat and drink. Remember, the plaque on your teeth is just waiting for that sugar to arrive. Include lots of fruits and vegetables in their meals and make sure they drink water instead of soda.
Do you take any special steps to keep a check on your child’s dental health? Tell us your secret hacks in the comments below.