It is vitally important to teach our children the importance of cavity prevention at an early age. Along with proper nutrition and regular visits to the dentist, children can learn the importance of dental hygiene and oral health.
Dental hygiene: Most children dread having to brush their teeth, but there are many new products on the market to aid in helping to form good oral health habits. It is recommended that parents begin cleaning their children’s gums as newborns. Soft gum brushes especially made for babies can be found at most drugstores. By using the soft brush or simply a damp cloth, bacteria are wiped away and dental hygiene can be instituted as a part of the baby’s daily routine. If you find that your child is refusing to brush, distract them by singing to them or playing music.
Fluoride is a hot topic for many, as too much can create fluorosis and too little can cause tooth decay. Your dentist can help determine the level of fluoride needed for your child, especially taking into consideration whether he drinks tap water containing fluoride. Using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste with fluoride can help keep your child’s teeth healthy, beginning between the ages of 3 and 6. With the many flavors now available, it must be closely monitored that your child does not swallow the toothpaste!
Flossing is also an important habit to stress for your child. The patience and time taken in this process will pay off in the long term, and you can even purchase colorful flossing picks that are made for children.
Diet and nutrition: Food plays a big role in the creation of the acid that causes cavities and decay in your child’s mouth. Because sugar contributes to tooth decay, it is best to limit these foods to special occasions. Even good foods such as breads, pastas, juices, and milk contain sugars that create the tooth-decaying acid. Make sure that your child brushes shortly after meals.
Visits to the dentist: It is recommended to take your child to the dentist within six months of their first tooth or by 1 year of age, as well as around age 2 or 3 when all of their baby teeth have come in. Rewarding good behavior at the dentist can help them be less afraid of the visit, and most dentists may give them small toys or stickers at the end of their visit. Some offices may have televisions in the ceiling with their favorite shows so your child can be distracted from unpleasant thoughts during the visit.
Susan Matherly is director at A Children’s Place, a service of Ephraim McDowell Health She has a bachelor’s degree in health and exercise science and a master’s degree in public health education. She can be contacted at (859) 236-7176.