Regular dental exams help to prevent short and long-term oral health problems. This is especially true for children who are in their formative years. Establishing healthy habits now is the key to a lifetime of shining white smiles. Detecting potential oral health issues at a young age is critical, as most mouth-related health problems are more treatable in the early stages.
Understanding exactly why your child’s dental health is so important is the first step. Let’s take a look at the reasons why proactive dental care is crucial to the overall health and happiness of your child. From there, we’ll go over some basic guidelines to follow.
Encourage Positive Habits Now
The earlier you teach your child proper oral health habits, the better off both of you will be. As a parent, your child looks to you as an example and a role model. Children are highly impressionable, and now is the time to make a strong impression that will last for a lifetime. Healthy children are happy children, and happy children make for happy parents.
Prevent Health Issues Later in Life
Everyone knows that poor dental hygiene can lead to cavities and gingivitis. What many parents don’t realize is that the mouth is the window to the rest of the body. Excessive germs and bacteria in the mouth can cause plaque, which may lead to a variety of different health problems, according to WebMD.
- Heart Disease
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
While these health issues may take years to manifest, now is the time to teach your children the habits that will last for a lifetime.
Healthy Primary Teeth Are Essential to Your Child’s Development
Primary teeth usually start to show within six months of a baby’s life. They’re usually grown in by the time the child is approximately two and a half years old. The enamel in primary teeth isn’t as dense as in permanent teeth, making your child’s teeth more fragile and susceptible to problems such as caries. Primary teeth also lay the foundation for the permanent teeth, and poor care can lead to crooked teeth later in life.
Primary teeth maintenance isn’t just crucial because of aesthetic reasons. Your child’s teeth directly affect how food is chewed, as well as how well it’s digested. Of course, proper digestion directly affects the overall health of your child. The spacing and alignment of primary teeth also play a major role in speech development, affecting how words are pronounced.
The First Dentist Appointment
You should bring your child to a pediatric dentist for a first checkup when the first tooth interrupts. Your child should visit the dentist by the age of 1. Getting started early is going to save you money in the long run. In fact, according to WebMD, a CDC study shows that dental costs for children who see a dentist before the age of 5 are almost 40 percent cheaper over the course of five years.
How Often to Bring Children to the Pediatric Dentist
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, you should bring your children to the dentist approximately every six months. However, that number may be higher or lower depending on the individual’s risk factors for oral health issues.
Preparing for Dental Visits
It’s generally a good idea to bring young children to pediatric dentists, rather than your usual family dentist. Pediatric dentists tend to provide environments and equipment that are more welcoming for children. Try to schedule your appointment at a time when your child is most likely to behave and be in a positive mood.
When you talk to your child about the visit beforehand, avoid triggering words such as “hurt” and “pain.” Instead, talk about the benefits. Explain how everybody goes to the dentist, and how clean the child’s teeth will be after. Be honest, but try to avoid conversations that can lead to negative connotations and fear. Listen to what your child has to say, and try to alleviate fears while still providing an accurate expectation of what to expect.
When to Start Brushing
Brushing is important right from the very beginning. Before your child even has teeth, you can use water on a baby toothbrush or soft washcloth to clean the gums. When the first tooth erupts, use an infant toothbrush and fluoridated toothpaste to gently brush. Brush twice per day, once after dinner. Avoid feeding the child after the final brush of the day.
When to Start Flossing
When two of your child’s teeth start touching, it’s time to start flossing. Speak to your dentist about proper methods and schedules.
Prevent Decay at Naptime
Avoid giving your baby juice, milk, or formula at nap time. These liquids can cling to the teeth and cause bacteria that can eventually lead to decay. If your baby demands a bottle during naps, make sure that it’s filled with water.
Reduce Juice Intake
Many parents don’t realize that too much juice can actually be a bad thing. Don’t give your child more than four ounces of 100 percent juice daily. Give juice as a special treat, rather than an all-day drink. Sippy cups filled with juice are fine on occasion but don’t use them too often, as the juice often hits the back of the front teeth, which can lead to decay.
When to Take the Pacifier Away
Using a pacifier for too long can affect the shape of your child’s teeth and mouth. If your child is still using a pacifier past age 3, speak to a physician.
Encouraging Healthy Brushing Habits at Home
Regardless of their age, it’s not always easy to get your children to brush and floss. It’s up to you to stand firm and let them know that they don’t have a choice in the matter. By the age of 2-3, your children should be able to brush their own teeth with a little help from a parent. They should be able to handle it on their own by age 6. Try to be encouraging yet patient.
Make sure your children brush their teeth before bedtime. If they’re too tired, it may be difficult to get them to cooperate. Consider brushing your teeth with them, or offering some sort of small prize or words of encouragement to make it a positive activity. Letting your children pick their own toothbrush and toothpaste is a great way to make brushing a little more fun.
When In Doubt, Talk to a Professional
Your child’s dental needs or going to change with age, and you’re inevitably going to have questions along the way. Make sure you check with reputable sources so you don’t exacerbate existing problems. Seek out a reputable pediatric dentist, and don’t hesitate to bring your child in for a visit for any reason. When it comes to the health of your child, it’s always best to play it safe.
Robbie Callahan is a Southern California blogger who has been writing about health, nutrition, and fitness for nearly 10 years. He serves as a part-time marketing consultant for health-businesses including Children’s Dentistry in Las Vegas.