4 Important Oral Health Habits for Kids
If kids learn how to take care of their teeth, they can continue those good habits into adulthood. Additionally, good oral habits can prevent serious issues later on, such as cavities, broken teeth, and other complications. Teach your kids these four essential oral health habits for lifelong healthy teeth.
Brush and Floss Twice a Day
Experts recommend that children brush and floss twice a day, just like adults. Make brushing and flossing part of the morning and evening routine so your child expects it during those times. You can make it fun by choosing a themed toothbrush and toothpaste featuring your child’s favorite fictional character.
Additionally, brushing should last about two minutes. Instead of setting a timer or counting out the seconds, play a favorite song while your child brushes. Not only will the song help your child brush for the proper length of time, but music makes hygiene chores more enjoyable.
During your child’s first year or two of life, you’ll probably have to wield the toothbrush yourself. As he or she gets used to handling utensils, however, you can shift the responsibility to your child. Talk to him or her about why brushing is important and how it protects his or her health.
Children should floss as soon as two teeth touch. Use themed floss to help your child acclimate to the process, and teach him or her how to floss properly. You might consider brushing and flossing with your child so that it becomes a group activity. If you model good oral habits, your child will develop them as well.
Furthermore, use the proper amount of fluoride for your child’s age. Your dentist can offer further fluoride treatments to keep your child’s mouth as healthy as possible. If you’re not sure about the ideal fluoride content, consult your dentist for a custom recommendation.
Schedule Regular Dental Visits
Children should visit the dentist at least twice per year or as often as the dentist recommends. Schedule the first visit when your child is between six months and one year old or around the time when his or her first tooth erupts. Starting this oral health habit early will make dentist visits part of your child’s normal schedule.
Additionally, take your child to the dentist if he or she suffers a mouth injury. For instance, kids can break teeth if they get into an accident on the playground or bite into something that’s too hard. Early intervention can prevent permanent damage and help keep your child free from pain.
Some kids experience significant anxiety when they go to the dentist. To make each visit go as smoothly as possible, keep your own anxiety in check and acknowledge your child’s fears. Use a pediatric dentist who has experience working with young children.
According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, 42 percent of children between ages 2 and 11 get dental caries, or cavities, in their primary teeth. Kids from low-income families tend to have more cavities than other children, and 21 percent of kids between ages 6 and 11 have cavities in their permanent teeth.
These statistics stress the importance of oral health habits. Visiting the dentist will allow a trained professional to evaluate your child’s mouth and make recommendations. Because dental care can get expensive, you might need to look for affordable dental insurance plans. You’ll save money on office visits, X-rays, and other procedures. A plan with a low deductible can help you budget your dental expenses more carefully.
Avoid Chewing on Nonfood Items and Ice
Kids love to chew on things. From the moment they’re born, for instance, they often suck and chew on pacifiers. As they start developing teeth, they ease the pain with teething rings or other objects. Some kids also suck their thumbs or other fingers, which can push the front teeth out of place.
To protect your child’s oral health, encourage him or her to avoid chewing and sucking. Hard objects, such as ice and hard candies, can break teeth or reduce their stability. Although sucking and chewing can prove soothing for very young children, break the habit by the time your child turns 4 to prevent long-term damage.
Watch for other negative oral habits as well. Some kids chew on pens and pencils, for instance, which can lead to damaged or poorly spaced teeth. Remind your child to take the item out of his or her mouth on every occasion to break the habit.
Eat a Well-Rounded Diet
One of the best gifts you can give your children is a healthful diet. Not only do healthy foods prevent obesity, diabetes, and other serious health conditions, but they also help prevent tooth decay. Sugary snacks and drinks can encourage bacteria in the mouth, which leads to dental caries. Additionally, acidic foods can wear down your child’s tooth enamel, which leads to cavities later on.
Steer your child toward lean proteins, vegetables, and fruit. Although fruit contains sugar, it’s not as harmful as the sugar content in cake and candy. After your child eats a piece of fruit, encourage him or her to brush the teeth to remove the sugar from his or her mouth.
Water is the most healthful beverage for your child. Juices, sodas, and other drinks contain large amounts of sugar, which will cause dental cavities. Milk also contains sugar in the form of lactose, but small amounts won’t hurt your child’s teeth. Again, regular brushing can help stave off cavities and preserve your child’s oral health.
This doesn’t mean that your child can’t have the occasional treat. However, send him or her to brush and floss right afterward. If your child spends the night at someone else’s house, make sure that he or she has a toothbrush and floss in an overnight bag.
Teaching your child good oral health habits can have many benefits, from reduced dental bills to increased tooth longevity. Just because the primary teeth eventually fall out doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve special care.
Image via Flickr by meddygarnet
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