Did you know that most adult dental issues could have been prevented in childhood? In fact, dental decay is the most common preventable disease in children. If we could change that trend, children would experience fewer dental issues, fewer missed days of school, and less anxiety about the dentist.
So, why do so many children experience dental problems? It really comes down to dental IQ. There is a common misconception that baby teeth aren’t important because they are eventually lost. In reality, baby teeth are essential for normal speech development, nutrition, and spacing for the permanent teeth. Here are the 5 best tips we recommend to ensure that your child is setup for a lifetime of good oral health.
1. Nighttime Is The Right Time
The mechanical action of removing debris from the teeth is a very important part of good oral hygiene. A toothbrush and some water is all you need to brush away the majority of the food and bacteria lingering on the surfaces of the teeth. We always recommend brushing your kiddos after breakfast and before bed. On those hectic days, try not to skip the nighttime brushing, as less saliva is present at night and bacteria can go crazy munching the debris leftover from the day. The acid they produce breaks down the enamel over time causing cavities. You may not realize it, but your kids will need your help brushing until they have the dexterity to do it well themselves, usually about 8 years old.
2. Be Picky About Sticky
If your child is a big fan of starchy foods, like breads, crackers, and cereal, it is much more likely that the grooves of their teeth will become clogged with the sugary substances. Although these foods can’t be avoided all together, you do need to limit the amount and frequency your child consumes. It is incredibly difficult to brush these starchy foods away, so offer up a crunchy snack like carrots, apples or celery to start the cleaning process. Sugar free gum is another nice option, after a starchy snack, and helps clean the sugars off the chewing surfaces.
3. A Little Tippy About The Sippy
As parents we all love the convenience and safety of a sippy cup. However, these handy tools can become the source of major dental issues for kids. Limit your child’s sippy usage to meal times and avoid letting them walk around with one full of milk, juice or pop, to sip at their leisure. The more sips they take, the more sugar is focused on their front teeth. By 2 years old, your child should easily be able to use a straw, which we strongly encourage for all drinks besides water. Most importantly, never put your child to bed with a bottle or a sippy full of anything but water (see rule #1 about nighttime bacteria).
4. Floss Like A Boss
Flossing a child is often a bit of a rodeo, but it is important to start now to develop good habits! Toothbrush bristles can’t fit between most teeth and floss is the only other way to remove food and bacteria. Our rule is that any teeth that touch one another should be flossed. The flossing sticks are a great option for kids! Start this habit as soon as your child has two teeth that touch and make it a nightly event. You can even throw some in the bathtub and make it part of their routine!
5. Don’t Scare Them, Prepare Them
One of the best things you can do for your child is to not terrify them with your personal dental horror stories. It is okay to warn them about the risks of not brushing and flossing, but setting up the dentist as a scary, mean, torturer, is not going to be the best way to prepare them for an inevitable dental visit. The best thing you can do is talk about how important it is that they have a dental check up and how cool it will be to learn about their teeth, how important their teeth are, how much fun they will have etc… Kids that grow up afraid of the dentist become adults that are afraid of the dentist!