5 Mistakes Parents Make with Their Children’s Oral Health

Children's Oral health

Most children have had a cavity, but how big a deal is it really? Dental caries is the most common infectious disease in children, as well as the most common chronic disease in both children and adults.

Chronic disease?

Yes — once decay has formed, it doesn’t just go away. Even after a tooth is repaired with a filling, the effect of the disease is still present. Treatment prevents the disease from getting any worse. But as they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Kids rely on their parents for the guidance and tools to stay healthy and develop proper oral hygiene habits. Hopefully you’re on the right track, but just in case, here are five mistakes many parents make with their children’s oral health.

1) Letting Children Brush Alone

You might be an all-star parent with kids trained to brush their teeth twice each day — they even floss occasionally! But most children don’t have the motor skills to brush their teeth effectively until age 8, and even then many still won’t brush effectively or long enough because kids.

The first step to preventing cavities in children is for us parents to take care of our own mouths, demonstrating proper oral hygiene while we supervise our kids. Be a role model and make brushing a family affair!

2) Putting Your Baby to Bed With a Bottle

This is a simple problem to avoid, but parents don’t realize putting a baby to bed with a bottle is very destructive to the baby’s teeth. The sugars from milk (or juice) feed the bacteria in the mouth, causing them to produce an acid that erodes teeth all night long.

If the baby wakes and needs to be fed, make sure to wipe their mouth with a soft cloth or toothbrush if teeth are present. Even infants need their teeth and gums cleaned daily. (And if you are not an infant, we recommend that anyone who cares about their teeth drink only water at night.)

3) Missing Critical Dental Appointments

The first dental visit should be when the first tooth appears or by the baby’s first birthday. This lets us get in front of dental problems — such as early childhood caries — early, before tooth extraction becomes the only treatment option.

Parents also have an opportunity to learn how to care for their infant’s mouth, get tips on handling teething, and discuss oral habits like thumb-sucking.. The earlier the dental visit, the better the chance that we can prevent future dental problems.

After that, dental appointments should be every six months, which will help to establish your child’s comfort with visiting the dentist and allow us to stay on top of things.

4) Not Using Fluoride Toothpaste

Fluoride comes from a common, natural element. Often referred to as nature’s cavity fighter, fluoride helps prevent cavities in teeth by making enamel more resistant to damage from tooth-decaying acids. Before we started adding fluoride to toothpaste and water, cavities were about three times more common than they are now.

Fluoride helps rebuild weakened tooth enamel and can even reverse early tooth decay. When it makes contact with teeth, fluoride is absorbed into the enamel. It helps repair that enamel and keep your teeth hard by replenishing lost calcium and phosphorus.

For children aged 3 and younger, use a dab of fluoride toothpaste about the size of a grain of rice on their toothbrush. For children 3 to 6 years old, the amount should be pea-sized.

5) Offering Sports Drinks and Soda

A substantial amount of children drink multiple sugar-sweetened beverages a day. The excess sugar contributes to multiple health problems such as obesity and dental caries. Fruit juice, sports drinks, and soda should be consumed sparingly. We recommend limiting them to meal time and cleaning teeth afterward.

There are absolutely no benefits to drinking soda, especially for children. Soda and some fruit juices have a high amount of sugar and are acidic. Both sugar and acidity are contributors to tooth decay. If these types of drinks are consumed, the child should brush and floss even more often.

The choices that are made early in life become habits that we often maintain as adults. If you help your children form healthy habits of drinking water, properly brushing and flossing, and avoiding excess sugar, they will see huge health benefits all their lives. Setting a great example for your children helps your entire family live well.

Helping Kids Love Dentistry!
~Dr. Duffy

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