It’s a sad fact, but childhood tooth decay is one of the top *diseases* that affect children today. In fact, early childhood caries (cavities and tooth decay) is just as common, if not more so, than asthma is in children.
The good news is, as parents there IS something you can do – by instilling in your children good daily dental hygiene habits such as brushing and flossing from an early age. It is the best way to put your child on the path to a happy and healthy smile that can help them keep their teeth for a lifetime.
The benefits of brushing and flossing teeth from an early age will help to remove bacteria and food from your child’s teeth that can build up during the day and in between meals. It’s these healthy daily habits that can help prevent your child growing up with a mouth full of cavities and gingivitis, and it will also help reduce bad breath.
Children who have healthy teeth and gums have a healthy smile and this can help with their psychological growth as well.
It is never too early to start thinking about your child’s oral health. Too many children have tooth decay before they even reach kindergarten and children who have dental decay in their baby teeth are at much greater risk of developing cavities in their adult teeth. Parents should work with their dentist on their child’s dental hygiene after baby’s first tooth breaks through.
As parents, there are a few things you can do to instil good dental hygiene habits in your children –
- Supervise your younger children – if you have a child or children under the age of six you should help them brush their teeth twice a day, once in the morning after breakfast and once at night before they go to bed. You can let them try for themselves and just assist them with reaching the difficult areas at the back of their mouths. You should also only use a *pea sized* amount of toothpaste on a child’s toothbrush until they are about 6 years old.
- Teach your children how to brush along the gum line of their teeth, show them how to position their toothbrush – half on their teeth and half on their gums to help prevent gingivitis.
- Work on it one thing at a time – once your child has mastered brushing their teeth properly, teach them how to floss to remove the bacteria from between the teeth where a toothbrush just can’t reach. Children should floss just once a day, preferably at night. Children under the age of 10 will most likely need help from a parent to help them floss. You can use floss picks and stand behind your child with their head tilted back so you can get a better view of their teeth
- Limit the amounts of starches and sugars your child eats. Don’t let them drink milk, juice or other sweet drinks from a bottle or sippy cup throughout the day or at bedtime as this can lead to tooth decay. Instead give your child water to drink in between meals, juices, milk and other sweet drinks are just providing the mouth with a constant source of sugar for the bacteria to grow on.
- Offer your child healthy snacks – good for their teeth and better for a well-balanced diet. Give your child a choice between two healthy snacks – like a piece of fruit or some cheese. When you allow your child to be a part of the decision-making process they are more likely to be pleased and happy with their snack. Starchy snacks like biscuits and chips can be broken down into sugars and cause cavities.
- Schedule regular visits with your dentist – regular appointments can be a great opportunity to discuss issues, and for your dentist to follow your child’s progress, to keep on top of cavities and suggest the right way to protect your child’s teeth during sports etc.
- Be a good role model for your children – brush your teeth twice a day and floss once a day, when you book a dental check-up for your child, schedule yours at the same time. Avoid any *saliva-sharing* activities such as kissing on the lips and sharing the same utensils; this reduces the chances of vertically transmitting cavities to them.