Oral health is a big issue for children and adolescents. During this time, proper dental care is essential for children that want strong, healthy smiles as adults. Dental health can have a huge impact on all aspects of a child’s life. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that children with poor oral health miss more school and receive lower grades than children who don’t.
The CDC also has some alarming statistics about children and cavities:
- More than half of children between the ages of 6 and 8 have at least one cavity in their baby (primary) teeth
- More than half of adolescents aged 12 to 19 have had a cavity in at least one of their adult (permanent) teeth
- Children between the ages of 5 and 19 from low-income families are twice as likely to have cavities compared to children from higher-income households
As these stats show, tooth decay is a widespread problem. But it doesn’t have to be. By taking steps to improve your child’s dental health while they’re young, you can ensure they have good oral health as an adult.
1. Brush twice daily
You’ve heard this tip countless times before, but that’s because it’s so important. Regular brushing helps protect your child’s teeth and establishes a good habit early in life. Each brushing session should last at least two minutes and consist of up-and-down and back-and-forth motions. Try to brush the tongue and gums too. Your child will probably start brushing their own teeth when they’re about six years old so before then, you’ll have to do the brushing for them.
2. Floss once per day
Most people skip flossing because they think it takes too long or that it’s not needed. Brushing your teeth doesn’t catch every piece of food or plaque that might linger between your teeth, however. Without flossing, you leave those pieces behind and run a higher risk of getting cavities. Some kids find traditional flossing difficult so you can buy floss picks or other fun flossing tools to make it easier for them.
3. Rinse after meals and snacks
Although kids only need to brush twice per day and not after every meal, they should still rinse out their mouths every time after they eat. Rinsing can help wash away leftover food or bacteria and stimulates saliva. Producing saliva after eating is important because it helps restore teeth’s minerals, making them stronger. For older kids, chewing sugarfree gum after eating also helps with saliva production, as well as balancing acid that causes tooth decay and strengthening the jaw.
4. Avoid sugary foods and drinks
Sugars are teeth’s worst enemy, especially for young kids. Bacteria in the mouth love to feed on sugars and starches, leaving behind acid that chips away at tooth enamel and creates cavities. Kids should eat the following foods in moderation:
- Sticky foods like gummies
- Sugary treats
- Simple carbohydrates like chips and white bread
- Sports drinks
Even some juices can be loaded with sugar. Be mindful of what you’re feeding your kids and always check out the labels on foods and drinks to know the sugar content.
5. Add fluoride
Fluoride is a natural mineral that helps your child’s teeth battle against acids that cause cavities. Young children should have adequate amounts of fluoride in their teeth because it eventually gets incorporated into their adult teeth, setting them up with long-term, cavity-fighting resistance. Fluoride can come from several sources, including:
- Tap water
- Bottled water with added fluoride
- Fluoride toothpaste
- Topical fluoride treatments at the dentist
- Fluoride supplements
You don’t want to overdo it with fluoride, as too much can cause fluorosis, which mildly discolors teeth.
6. Discourage tobacco use
Most parents don’t consider tobacco use a problem for their young children, but kids become impressionable teenagers and young adults who may start smoking if they aren’t aware of the significant damage tobacco has on teeth. It increases the risk of gum disease and cancer of the mouth and turns your teeth yellow or even brown. Educate your kids about the dangers of tobacco use — not just for their mouth but for their overall health — and set an example by avoiding using tobacco products yourself.
How to encourage better dental habits in your kids
Implementing the good dental habits listed above is easier said than done with most kids. You can’t force your child to have better dental hygiene, but you can encourage them to get into a routine with some of these tactics:
- Let your child choose their own toothbrush as long as it has soft enough bristles.
- Let your child have a say in the toothpaste flavor they use, too.
- Play your child’s favorite song for two minutes while they brush.
- Reward your kid when they go one week without missing brushing or flossing. Make the reward something other than a sugary treat, like taking them to the park or giving them a certificate.
- Plan a fun outing for after the dentist if your child is scared or apprehensive about going.
As a parent, you have a responsibility to take care of your kid’s teeth and instill good oral hygiene habits from a young age. There are many simple things you can do that will keep your child’s teeth in perfect shape now and over the course of their whole life.
At Ashburn Children’s Dentistry, we have been growing healthy faces for over 16 years. We believe that teeth health can have a huge impact on children’s overall well being –physically, socially, and academically. We aim to diagnose and resolve the root of any dental issue, rather than treat the symptoms alone. Contact us for a virtual consultation today.