February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, and, in light of this and the fact that cavities and tooth decay are the most common childhood illnesses, here are some things parents should consider when teaching their children how to take care of their teeth.
Earlier is better. People underestimate the importance of early dental health. It’s important partly because early training leads to the better establishment of lifelong healthy habits, but also because those first teeth aren’t simply “disposable.” Caring properly for baby teeth will help a child’s adult teeth to come in straighter because healthy baby teeth act as place holders for those adult teeth.
Poor dental health in children, which leads to cavities and tooth loss, also causes unnecessary pain, eating difficulties, and self-consciousness – all of which are avoidable with the proper care. Parents should begin brushing their children’s teeth as soon as they come through using a soft bristle toothbrush and a small dab of toothpaste containing fluoride. The first dental visit should be scheduled within six months of the appearance of teeth. During this visit your dentist will give you guidance and answer questions about your child’s teeth and general tooth formation.
Instill the brushing habit. Some children will fight brushing, but it’s worthwhile to push through until the habit is well established. It helps to make it an enjoyable experience. Add music to make it fun, and make sure to give it a solid place in the bedtime routine you establish with your child.
Watch what your children eat…and drink. Sodas and sugary drinks are not just bad for kids’ overall health, they are terrible for teeth as well. Limit both soda and juice, and do not put young children to bed with a bottle. Their teeth should be clean before they fall asleep so that plaque has little opportunity to form overnight. While it can be difficult in our current society to avoid sweet treats, try to limit your children’s exposure to them as much as possible. They are not only unhealthy, they are addictive and will be a bad habit that is hard to break.
Ask your dentist about sealants and fluoride varnishes. Fluoride varnishes can be applied to baby teeth, and sealants to permanent teeth. Both are excellent ways to prevent tooth decay. Children who have had sealants applied are 72 percent less likely to have cavities over the next three years.
Parents who follow these simple suggestions for their children’s dental health will find taking their children to the dentist to be a much less stressful experience because healthy teeth do not need to be repaired. Let’s work together on good strategies for dental health with our kids this February and all year long.