Good Dental Care Starts Young, Very Young
Teeth are meant to last a lifetime, but tooth decay is a much more common childhood disease than chickenpox. Start training your children on good dental care before they can even say “mama” to create a habit that will help ensure their pearly whites do last a lifetime.
Although tooth decay is largely preventable, it is on the rise. One culprit is “baby bottle tooth decay”. This is a result of putting infants and toddlers to bed with baby bottles in their mouths. For toddlers, carrying around a sippy cup with milk, juice, or other tooth decay promoting liquids has led to early decay.
Tooth decay can affect a child’s health. In extreme cases, the bacteria can spread to the dental pulp. If not treated, the tooth may abscess, risking bacterial spread to the blood supply.
So what is a parent to do?
For one thing, fill bottles and sippy-cups with water when your child is going to sleep or insists on lugging around a beverage. “Chasing” milk or juice with water will go a long way to preventing tooth decay. Start them on this habit while they are young and they won’t protest.
In addition, you can make tooth care commonplace in your child’s life by starting before they even have teeth. In our home, we started using a baby toothbrush on our children’s gums as a part of their bedtime and morning routine.
Once their baby teeth start coming in, you can add a dash of toothpaste (I have my opinions on what toothpaste is best, but I won’t go into that here). Don’t make it a chore and don’t obsess about it with your child. Rather, have patience and make it a bonding time with and good experience for both of you.
Another habit we created with our children while they were very young was flossing every evening. It didn’t matter that they only had two teeth and that the gap between them was wide enough to drive a truck through, we did it anyway. It isn’t necessarily effective, but again, it established a routine and habit as they got older.
It is recommended that you brush and floss your child’s teeth until they are at least five years old. After that, they can brush themselves with your supervision until they are around seven or eight. The reason for this is that young children simply do not have the ability to brush effectively alone.
And last, but not least, make sure you make regular trips to the dentist for that all important check up. If there are any issues, it is important to catch them early. If there is nothing to report, it is still worth the trip. There is nothing more satisfying to a child than for their dentist to exclaim how clean and healthy their teeth are, reinforcing in them the need to keep up good work!
-Lynn & Jon