Did you know that by the time children start school, more than 40% have tooth decay? Oftentimes in these cases, parents neglect their child's oral healthcare because of their belief that baby teeth are temporary and, therefore, not important.
Here are 5 steps to start your child's oral healthcare off right:
1. Start Early
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, your child should see a dentist by their 1st birthday. Not only does it begin the lifelong routine of visiting the dentist twice a year, but it creates an early foundation of trust in the dentist.
2. Brush and floss
Even before your baby’s teeth come in, you can use a soft brush or washcloth with water to gently clean your baby’s gums. Once your child’s teeth come in, you can begin brushing with non-fluoride toothpaste. Allow your child to begin to brush their own teeth with supervision. Once you are sure they will not swallow the toothpaste, they can graduate to using toothpaste with fluoride. Many brands have a line of toothpaste that begins at Stage 1: Non-Fluoride Toothpaste and includes subsequent stages that cater to your child's healthcare needs.
Once there are additional teeth, Largent tells parents to buy infant toothbrushes that are very soft. Brushing should be done twice daily using fluoride toothpaste.
Your dentist can help you teach your child to floss correctly. This should begin when the teeth begin to touch each other.
3. Monitor what they drink
Allowing a child to go to bed with a bottle or sippy cup can wreak havoc on your child’s teeth. The sugars from milk and juice can sit on the teeth for hours, causing decay. Instead, try not to create a habit of putting your child down in their crib with a drink. If you have to give them a drink, make it water.
Also, children should not walk around with a juice cup all day. When kids sip slowly at a constant rate, decay increases.
4. Beware of flavored medicines
Children’s medications are often flavored and sugary and can cause tooth decay.
Antibiotics and some asthma medications can cause an overgrowth of candida (yeast), which can lead to a fungal infection called oral thrush. Thrush presents itself as creamy, curd-like patches on the tongue or inside the mouth. If your child is on medication, consult with your dentist on the best way for your child to brush their teeth.
5. Make brushing fun
Have fun with your child when it comes to brushing. Try starting a sticker reward system that will help motivate your child. Bring in a fun teaching tool. Remember to make it a positive experience.