Smiles are meant to last a lifetime. Yet, inconsistent dental habits can have a big impact on your child’s teeth and gums in the future. Often what doesn’t become routine early on, such as flossing and regular dental visits, leads to gum disease and tooth loss in adulthood.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 85% of children ages two through 17 have had a dental visit in the past year. Yet, this percentage drops to 64% in adults between the ages of 18 and 64. The key to successful long-term dental care is consistency in habits. Dental visits should be ongoing throughout childhood and adolescence to set the foundation for young adults to be proactive in their dental care.
From When the First Teeth Appear
Dental hygiene should begin as soon as soon as your baby’s first teeth appear. Daily cleaning with a clean damp washcloth sets the stage for toothbrushing. By age two, brushing with a fluoride toothpaste should become a habit. Even at this early age, tooth decay and the preliminary stages of gum disease can begin. Avoid hard-bristled toothbrushes. Your best bet is to use one with soft, rubber bristles that clean teeth without damaging fragile tooth enamel and gum tissue. This also is the time to discourage pacifiers and thumb-sucking.
By the time your child reaches six, they likely have the manual dexterity to brush along the gum line and across the biting surfaces of their teeth. Of course, you’ll want to regularly check to make sure they’re getting those hard-to-reach spots. Your child’s dentist can provide you with products that help you identify bacterial plaque by turning it a conspicuous color, making it easy for you and your child to identify where they are not brushing adequately. Remember, ongoing encouragement to brush regularly in childhood sets the stage for effective tooth brushing in adulthood. Routines that become habits are much easier to keep when they’ve been established early.
The Importance of Dental Visits
Twice yearly dental check-ups offer a host of benefits for your child. These visits teach that oral health is important, and they enable your child to have a good, positive attitude about dental cleanings and treatments. Dental visits also enable your child’s dentist to identify problems early before they get worse or require more extensive treatment.
Children who are introduced to dental care early and consistently are the most likely to continue to take care of their teeth into adulthood. They will be part of the 64% of adults who obtain regular dental visits and will also be the ones who avoid the pain and suffering of gum disease and tooth loss in the future.