Did you know that sugary sweets and sodas not only pose a danger to your child’s waistline? They can have detrimental effects to your child’s teeth as well. In many parts of the world, rising rates of tooth decay among young children are a direct consequence of the consumption of sugary drinks and snacks.
In fact, the World Health Organization on its website states that diseases of the mouth, which include tooth decay, cavities and gum disease, are among the most common non-communicable diseases in the world. Shockingly, according to the WHO Global Oral Health Database, tooth decay affects an estimated 60 to 90 percent of schoolchildren and nearly 100 percent of adults worldwide. Diseases of the mouth are also some of the most neglected.
Fortunately, awareness on this health issue is slowly growing, and various countries have started initiatives to teach children and parents about the importance of good oral habits.
It all starts with brushing that little first milk tooth as soon as it appears – usually when your baby is around six months of age. While wiping the teeth with a soft washcloth suffices at first, at the age of 1 it is time to introduce a toothbrush, adding a tiny amount of toothpaste with fluoride, about the size of a grain of rice, to it.
Introducing these habits at such a young age does not only help to establish an oral care routine – something much more difficult once they are older – it is actually a necessity to keep their teeth clean. Natural sugars found in vegetables, fruits and even breast milk may damage your child’s teeth if you don’t clean them twice daily with a brush and fluoride paste.
As they get older, children sometimes don’t want their parents to brush their teeth anymore, but dentists recommend parents to help their kids brush until they are about 8 years. Even after that, it is useful to watch them every now and then to ensure they use proper technique and brush for a full two minutes.
Apart from brushing, it is advisable to start flossing as soon as your child’s teeth don’t have space between them anymore, because cavities can form between teeth as well.
Lastly, good oral health habits include a trip to the dentist twice a year from the moment the first tooth appears or at the age of 1. This will help children to become familiar with the dentist and ensures that any problems will be detected at an early stage. If possible, choose a pediatric dentist, one specialized in treating children, who offers games and activities to make the trip a fun one.
Here are five more tips to take care of your child’s teeth:
Avoid sugary drinks and sweet snacks between mealtimes
This includes fruit juice. Just because the sugars are natural does not mean they won’t harm your child’s teeth. Limit juice to one small glass a day, taken during mealtime. Sweet snacks harm the teeth as well, so it is better to give a piece of cheese or crackers in between meals. Whole fruits, although possibly high in sugar and acid, are acceptable as well. The chewing stimulates the production of saliva, which protects the teeth. The fibrous texture keeps the gum in good shape.
If you are not sure how to brush your child’s teeth properly, ask your dentist or dental hygienist. Good brushing means twice a day for two minutes, using a little bit of fluoride paste. Children can spit out excess paste afterwards but do not need to rinse with lots of water, as this diminishes the effectiveness of the fluoride.
Make it fun
Children are not always eager to have their teeth brushed, but there are plenty of ways to make it fun.
Try taking turns: After you brush your child’s teeth, let them brush yours;
Sing a song while brushing;
Give your child’s favorite teddy or doll a brush and let your child brush his teeth;
Buy your child a couple of brushes in different colors and ask which one he would like to use today;
After a week of good brushing, reward your child with a trip to the park or playground;
Get an app. There are plenty of apps available to make tooth brushing a breeze! Try a toothbrush timer, a book, game, or a song.
Use an electric toothbrush and handheld flosser
It can be tricky for kids to brush and floss their teeth properly. An electric toothbrush is not only more fun but also more effective in cleaning those little teeth. And while regular floss can be tricky for developing hands, a handheld flosser is much easier for your child. The bright colors they come in are an added advantage.
Be a good role model
As with so many things, don’t expect your child to have good brushing and eating habits if you don’t take care of your teeth properly yourself. So make sure your little one sees you brushing and flossing your teeth, and limit your daily consumption of sweets and sugary drinks.