With proper oral care, tooth decay is largely preventable. Yet, more and more children around kindergarten age suffer from cavities and tooth decay. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), tooth decay remains to be the most common chronic disease of children aged 6 to 11 years and adolescents aged 12 to 19 years. It is also four times more common than asthma among adolescents aged 14 to 17 years.
What can you do to keep your children’s teeth and gums healthy and strong? Here are eight ways that can help.
- Start early. Even before your baby’s teeth erupt, you can gently clean the gums using a soft washcloth or a soft baby toothbrush.
- Avoid “Baby Bottle Tooth Decay”. Never put your infant to sleep with a bottle of juice, formula or milk. While your baby sleeps, the flow of saliva decreases – the perfect time for harmful sugary liquids to collect around the teeth and invite acid attacks.
- Don’t let your toddler walk around the whole day with a sippy cup – unless they only contain water. Here are several guidelines on sippy cup use from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD).
- Brush your child’s teeth twice a day, two minutes each time, with a fluoride toothpaste. The American Dental Association’s Council on Scientific Affairs recommends using just a smear of toothpaste for children younger than 3 years old and a pea-size amount for children between 3-6 years old. As a rule of thumb, a child who can tie his or her own shoes or write in cursive is ready to begin brushing independently. Here are a few tricks that may encourage your children to enjoy brushing.
- Floss your child‘s teeth daily to prevent plaque build-up in areas toothbrushes can’t reach. Start flossing as soon as two of your child’s teeth touch. See here for more tips on starting the flossing habit with your kids.
- Make sure your child maintains a healthy and well-balanced diet that limits starchy or sugary foods. If your child asks for a snack, choose nutritious foods from the main food groups rather than cookies or candies. Limit the consumption of juice to meal times only. Children consuming juices throughout the day are at more risk of developing tooth decay.
- Beware of teeth-unfriendly medicines. Most medications for kids are flavoured and sweetened. If your child is on chronic medications, you may want to discuss with your child’s dentist how often your child should brush his or her teeth.
- Bring your baby to a paediatric dentist as soon as the first tooth comes out and no later than his or her first birthday. It is also recommended that you bring your child to an orthodontist by the age of seven years old.
Teaching your child oral care at an early age is an investment with lifetime benefits. Make sure that you set a perfect example of showing your child that you take good care of your own teeth and visiting your dentist regularly.