Dental health is as important for kids as it is for adults. Yet, there are different challenges when it comes to keeping young smiles healthy. From fussy brushers and dental office jitters to battling with braces, there’s plenty to contend with. As a parent, your challenge is being proactive from the start when it comes to protecting your child’s teeth and gums. Here are a few strategies to ensure your child’s pearly whites stay healthy and bright.
Cavities top the list of childhood dental problems. About one in five children, ages five to 11 years, have at least one untreated decayed tooth. Yet, they almost always are preventable. Along with diligent brushing with a fluoride toothpaste and flossing, dental visits are vital to preventing cavities. And, regular checkups and cleanings should begin sooner than later. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends children begin seeing a dentist by their first birthday. By the time your child is three or four, cavities and decay can already be present.
Professional cleanings can go a long way towards preventing dental problems. However, that’s not the only benefit to them. The earlier your child goes to the dentist, the more likely that they will be at ease with dental visits. In contrast, treatment for cavities or early stages of gum disease can often be scary – even requiring sedation, injections and sometimes even surgery.
Brush Better, Not Harder
It’s up to parents to lead the way when it comes to brushing and flossing. The AAPD recommends that children brush for two minutes, twice a day, as well as floss once a day. While many young children want to tackle tasks independently, few have the motor skills to brush effectively until they’re at least seven or eight years old. One strategy is to help with brushing and flossing, and then give the toothbrush to your child so they can “finish.”
Because gums are especially fragile in children, overbrushing is a common pediatric dental problem that can lead to gum erosion and early-stage gum disease. And, the problem can be exacerbated with the use of a hard-bristle toothbrush. Even soft-bristle brushes can damage gums if your child brushes too aggressively. A safer alternative is a toothbrush designed with flexible rubber-bristles that don’t abrade gums.
Offer a Balanced Diet
The old mantra “you are what you eat,” certainly applies to your child’s dental health. A diet of soda and candy is a surefire way to promote dental decay. Yet, many are surprised to learn that seemingly-healthy crackers, baked goods and fruit juice can have a similar effect. Along with food that has a high sugar content, those that have refined carbohydrates can also damage the tooth structure and gums.
A smile was meant to last a lifetime. As a parent, it’s your job to keep your child’s smile healthy during their formative years – by establishing healthy habits from the start. While it can be challenging sticking to regular brushing and professional cleanings, your child will thank you one day for your diligence.