- Start Early
As soon as the baby teeth start coming in, it is crucial for parents to engage their child in oral hygiene. They would need to get used to the idea of brushing their teeth as both breast and formula milks contain sugars that can cause teeth decay.
The first few teeth babies develop helps them digest their food, and develop their speech skills before the full set starts coming in. As it assists in mouth development, the right approach to dental hygiene is critical.
Boots UK pharmacist, Angela Chalmers says that it helps the child ease into the habit by allowing them to practice brushing their teeth with their fingers. As in most cases, the right toothbrush appropriate for an infant would be unavailable. Finger brushes are ideal because it could get them accustomed to the “sensation of something tickling their gums”.
Babies and toddlers are visual learners. They adapt the things they see into the learning programme. So, including them in a parent’s or sibling’s daily bathroom routine is encouraged, until at about seven or eight-years old, where they can go about their brushing without supervision.
Children should be broken into the habit of brushing their teeth in the morning and at night. Flossing, on the other hand, should be done twice a week – until, however, they reach the age of seven, in which they should make it a daily routine. It is most advisable to start flossing a child’s teeth when the first pair that touch each other appear.
Parents could also take the extra mile to making tooth brushing fun. They should allow the child be part of the process by getting them to choose their own brushes. Children’s brushes are wonderfully colourful in a range of fun characters, and have soft-bristles appropriate for their teeth. This change in shopping decisions could make a child feel in control and even encourage them to be reluctant brushers.
They could also incorporate a timer. By setting it to two minutes, the child is expected to spend at least 30 seconds on all quarters of the mouth – top left, top right, bottom left and bottom right.
Nutrition is another big factor contributing to children’s health and oral hygiene. As often as it’s mentioned, sugary foods and drinks DO take a toll on the pearly whites. They build up plaque and can cause cavities.
Parents should early on adopt the habit of limiting sweets around the house, and be conscious about the sugar content in packaged foods. They could opt for meals that are rich in calcium, like milk or yoghurt, which act as an enamel protector.
Citrus-rich foods should also be avoided as it promotes demineralisation – a process eroding tooth enamel.
In some occasions, parents would have their child’s teeth pulled out early to make room for its adult predecessor, or it may even fall out in a bike accident. Since it is made to guide the next teeth out, when absent, there would be no replacement to direct the new tooth. The result may be the filling of the gap left for the permanent tooth, which can potentially cause issues with teeth alignment that may need to be corrected with braces or even surgery later in life.
Protecting your child’s baby teeth now saves a great deal of pain (and money) for the road ahead.
- Getting the hang of it
Children are like sponges – they can soak up as much knowledge as they are given without getting overwhelmed, and at most times, they would carry the habits they practice as they grow older.
Parents should take advantage of this by designing a childhood that focuses on health and hygiene.
They should teach their children to get used to drinking water at room-temperature and rinsing their mouths after every meal. They should also be trained to avoid consuming foods and drinks containing a lot of sugar, as it would promote dental decay.
In addition, parents could keep on top of their family’s oral health care with a routine set up for the kids to follow. By brushing their teeth on schedule, kids will know when to expect it. Besides also supporting good habits, a routine furthermore trains the child for adulthood.
Knowledge is power, said everyone. Oral hygiene doesn’t only come with the brushing and flossing. It also comes with an awareness in nutrition and habits – lessons in which all parents should introduce to their children at an early age.
For example, kids as early as the age of five should be able to understand that drinking more water fights against acid erosion. It improves saliva production, which naturally cleans the teeth of debris, restoring the mouth. In simpler terms, water: good, germs: bad.
Although its been mentioned one too many times, it doesn’t hurt to be repeated. Sugary foods and drinks should be avoided. It is important for children to understand the negative impact sugar has on their teeth.
While encouraging the family to brush and floss regularly, and rinse after every meal at the table, parents should also make sure that their kids understands the function of a toothbrush and what it is meant to do. By having this conversation, kids are more likely to visualise their responsibility of personal hygiene. This education could lead to a deeper understanding, which would ultimately lead to a willingness to maintain their dental health.
Tooth decay has impacted more and more children over the years. In the year 2000, a report issued by the U.S Surgeon General estimated that 51 million school hours are sacrificed every year to tend to dental-related illnesses.
Children who reach the age of nine without having experienced tooth decay would have a 90% chance of never having a filling in their lifetime.
- Take time to Connect
Teeth brushing can be an intimate moment shared between family members. It is the best way to get the morning started and day ending. By brushing together and at the same time, children will easily understand that everyone does it – and not some form of punishment.
Telling micro-stories, too can be a helpful distraction to make the time fly by.
Another form of entertainment could be by incorporating games. By turning the “are we there yet?” question kids ask every five minutes into a timer game. This would give them a concrete sense of time by using a two-minute timer during toothbrush time.
Parents could also create a rewards system. They’ve been proven to excellence motivators for children to enforce good behaviour. It would most likely get the job done without tears or tantrums, especially when there’s a little fun involved.
Reading stories or watching television programmes about dental hygiene is another good way for the child to understand the normality of looking after the teeth. Videos of Elmo or Crawford the Cat brushing their teeth would remind children to brush theirs too.
- Don’t Skip on Appointments
Dentophobia is a term classifying the immense fear or visiting the dentist for oral care. It is a form of anxiety or phobia referring to strong negative feelings associated with dental treatment. It is a common fear among people of all ages, but if dealt with earlier, can be avoided altogether.
Parents should prioritise in making their child’s dental appointments a positive experience. To get used to the smells, noises and bright lights of a dental clinic, parents could bring their baby with them to appointments. They will eventually understand what is involved in a dental check-up. These should be carried out every six months.