As a parent, you love to see your baby smile. To keep children’s smiles bright as they grow, good oral health is critical. However, about 20% of elementary age children have at least one decayed tooth that hasn’t been treated, and the statistics aren’t much better for adolescents.
Poor oral health during childhood can impact your children as adults. If a baby tooth has to be pulled because of decay, permanent teeth can be misaligned, causing bite problems and more, because teeth shift to fill in the empty space.
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, and the team at Mountain Peak Dentistry wants to ensure your children’s teeth start healthy and stay healthy. Following are five ways you can help ensure good oral health for your children.
Take care of your children’s teeth until they can do it on their own
Oral care begins at birth. Before your baby’s teeth come in, wipe the gums with a clean, wet cloth after feeding. Once you see teeth erupting, use a baby toothbrush with a tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste on it, and rinse the teeth with a soft, clean, wet washcloth.
When two erupting teeth start touching, begin to use dental floss. You may find floss pics are the best way to floss your baby’s teeth.
Once your children reach preschool age, help them brush, using a small amount of fluoride toothpaste. Make sure they spit out the toothpaste when rinsing. Help your children brush and floss until about age 5 or 6 when they’re ready to do it themselves.
To prevent toothbrushing being treated like a chore, make a fun game out of brushing and flossing your children’s teeth while you help. Take your children to the store and point out the different flavors of toothpaste they can choose from.
Teach your children how to brush and floss
Once you move from doing most of the toothbrushing for your children to having them take over the task, be sure they’re doing it properly. Looking in the mirror, show them how to hold the brush at a 45-degree angle lightly against their gums.
Be sure they remember to get the area behind the front teeth, both top and bottom, which are more difficult to reach. Also, make sure they’re not scrubbing their teeth and gums too hard.
Set up a twice-daily routine and stick to it
Include twice-daily brushing on your children’s list of daily activities. You may want to use a chart that your children check off as they complete activities. Be sure your children also see you brush and floss; you’re the role model in helping them develop good oral health habits.
Keep sugary treats to a minimum
Feeding your children plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains introduces them to healthy eating and accustoms their palate to healthy foods. Pack healthy lunches and snacks, and keep sweets and juices to a minimum. It’s better to avoid juice when possible because it can cause weight gain and tooth decay. Eating fruit is healthier.
Small children should have no more than 4-6 ounces of juice a day, and school-age children and adolescents should have no more than 8 ounces of juice per day. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently changed its recommendations for giving juice to babies; instead of introducing juice at 6 months, do so no earlier than age 1.
Keep twice-yearly dental appointments
Your child should see the dentist every six months. This way, the dentist can spot tooth decay early, before it becomes a bigger problem that necessitates pulling a tooth.
Professional cleanings eradicate plaque that’s built upon the surface of your children’s teeth that can lead to tooth decay. A pediatric dentist can also diagnose children’s bite problems and spot signs of rare but complicated health issues such as tumors or cysts.
Call Mountain Peak Dentistry in Lakewood, Colorado, or book an appointment online for your whole family’s dental care needs. We can help ensure you have bright and healthy smiles for life.