The basis of healthy permanent teeth in children and adolescents happen during the first years of their life, Teaching them proper dental hygiene early in life is a great assurance for the development of strong and healthy teeth later in their lives. Parents can start by setting an example and make their children understand the importance of proper oral care. Children learn more by imitating their parents and they do better through affection and praise for their efforts.
Neglecting the child's oral care is a big mistake parents can make. Improper nutrition and teeth cleaning in the first 2 years of a child's life has been linked to tooth decay in most children. Tooth decay is five times more prevalent than asthma in children. Developing caries in primary teeth also increases the risk of tooth decay in permanent teeth. It is therefore important for parents to start teaching their children proper dental hygiene at an early age to prevent dental problems as they grow older.
When is the right time to start proper oral care for children?
Proper oral care starts before any teeth appear. It is recommended that parents wipe the baby's gums with water using a baby's toothbrush (no toothpaste) or soft cloth after feeding. doing this will help clear away harmful bacteria. Refrain from putting the baby to sleep with a feeding bottle as this may also harm the baby's gums and teeth because the sugars from milk or juice that stayed in the baby's mouth for hours will eat away at the enamel of the tooth, forming what is called bottle mouth. Symptom of bottle mouth is discolored, pocked, or rough front teeth. Severe cases of bottle mouth can lead to tooth decay and the infected tooth has to be extracted before the permanent teeth grow in.
A good rule to follow is to start brushing regularly when the first teeth appear. Flossing can be done as soon as the child has grown teeth that are in contact with each other, usually around 2-3 years of age. However, ask your dentist's advice first because not all children need to have to floss their teeth at this age. Dentists can also recommend non-fluoride toothpaste before a child reaches 2 years old. Give your child oral cleanings on a daily basis especially every after meals and make it a dental care habit.
There are three main reasons why you have to take your child for dental checkups:
- You will know if you are doing the right oral cleaning at home with your child
- You and your dentist can help prevent future dental problems
- Your dentist can determine if there are any issues and can treat them
However, if your child is scared of going to the dentist and makes it hard for you to bring him or her for the regular checkups, you can help your child to relax and be comfortable by following these simple tips:
- Take your child to your Fairhope Al Dentist as soon as the first tooth comes out or at the age of 1. The younger the child visits the dentist, the better.
- Use positive words like "strong, healthy teeth" and avoid using the words "pain", "Shot", or "hurt".
- Keep the first visit simple and don't tell your child too many details like tooth filling or extraction to avoid unnecessary anxiety in the child. However, don't give your child false hope also if a treatment is necessary.
- Get your child familiar with the routine of dental checkups before the first visit by playing with your child and pretending to be the dentist and patient. Make it fun and enjoyable and allow your child to role-play too by brushing and checking the teeth of a stuffed toy or doll.
- Never take your child with you during your own dental checkups because you yourself might feel anxious without knowing it and the child will feel it. Adult dental checkups have a completely different ambiance than that of pediatric dental clinic.
- Be ready for a little fussing yet stay calm. Allow the dentist and the staff to handle the resisting child because it is part of their work and they are trained to do it. You might be asked to stay at a distance or to hold your child's hand to make him or her comfortable.
- Don't promise your child any treat if he or she behaves well at the dental clinic. This might give a wrong message to the child (like what's so scary that you are telling him not to cry, or why emphasize that the dentist clean her teeth if you are going to give her a chocolate after the visit). Just praise your child for the good behavior and tell your child how proud you are of him or her for that.
- Make your child feel that visits to the dentist is necessary to make sure his or her teeth are always clean and strong. Emphasize that proper dental care is important.
There can also be some challenges or obstacles when it comes to dental hygiene for kids. Several of them are as follows:
- Baby bottle tooth decay
- Having white spots on teeth
- Fear of the dentist
- Stains from antibiotics
- Being fond of sweets
- Hard time scheduling a dental care routine
- Mouth injury from playing
- Parents can no longer monitor what their child eat during meals or snacks when the child starts schooling.
- Wearing braces
- Mouth injury from sports
- Unpredictable eating habits
By helping your children to learn the proper way of caring for their teeth, it will become a habit that will last till they grow into adults. Parents should stand firm about oral care and they have to emphasize the importance of proper dental care to their children. They can start teaching their child by setting an example. The following are several steps on how to start oral care and cleaning for kids:
Babies from 0-2 years old:
- Wipe gums with water using a soft toothbrush or cloth
- Start oral cleaning as soon as the first tooth appears
- Use a soft children's toothbrush as more teeth start to appear, but do not use a toothpaste yet
- Be patient because it will be difficult for the baby at first to get used to this dental routine
Children from 2-7 years old
- Toothpaste is allowed now although only in small pea-sized amount when toothbrushing
- You can supervise brushing and it should be twice a day - in the morning and before going to bed at night
- Make sure that your child never swallow or eat toothpaste
- Brushing thoroughly should take 3 minutes
A child's first teacher is his or her parents and they play an important role in ensuring the child's oral health as well as their overall health. An understanding of proper dental hygiene can greatly help parents to prevent tooth decay in their children and instill a healthy oral habit that the children can take with them till they grow old as adults. Parents should make their children enthusiastic about regular oral hygiene and make it more fun and acceptable to the kids by assisting them during their learning process towards a strong and healthy teeth and gums.
Schedule your child’s appointment today with your Fairhope Al Dentist.