Most parents are obsessed with milestones for their children, and rightly so. If your child isn’t developing “on schedule,” it could indicate a problem. But, how much do you think about your child’s oral health after those first teeth come in? Here’s how to establish good dental hygiene and make sure your child isn’t missing lesser-known milestones.
When Your Baby Is Teething
Before your child’s first tooth erupts, the primary teeth are forming in your child’s mouth and jaw. The actual eruption sets the stage for future dental checkups. According to at least one pediatric dentist in Utah county, you should see your dentist when that first tooth comes in, just to make sure there aren’t any problems.
Baby teeth are “placeholders” for permanent teeth, so they do matter. Some children get cavities because of poor hygiene or other health problems, but also because of poor diet. Specifically, a diet high in fructose sugars makes children especially susceptible to tooth decay.
Tooth sucking, pacifiers, and other oral fixations are normal for kids, to a degree. But, these things should also be discouraged if they interfere with normal development of the teeth.
Once kids start losing their baby teeth, and the permanents come in, they might have what’s called “mixed dentition.” This is when some baby teeth remain while permanent teeth are coming in.
If baby teeth are lost too quickly, before permanent teeth are ready to come in, it may cause crowding and prevent normal eruption of the permanent teeth.
Your child might also experience problems if permanent teeth come in and are larger than the baby teeth or if permanent teeth start to grow in under existing baby teeth. A visit to your dentist will tell you whether there are any potential problems developing and what can be done
Braces and Wisdom Teeth
Sometimes, children need braces, and other hardware, to prevent teeth from crowding, twisting, or becoming too spaced out as permanent teeth grow in.
Teenagers are especially sensitive to how braces look. At the same time, this age is a high-risk age for all kinds of dental problems which are easily fixed with braces and retaining systems.
The teen years are also an important time to emphasize good hygiene and eating habits, which can minimize or prevent dental problems.
Using simple toothpaste and brushes, combined with flossing, is usually all that’s needed for regular maintenance unless your child has an existing dental problem.
Most teens don’t have enough space in their mouth for wisdom teeth to grow in, unfortunately, so they must be extracted.
If extraction is necessary to prevent crowding, and other problems, your dentist will tell you.
Good Oral Hygiene Habits
Most good habits are formed early. If you have good habits, it’s highly likely for your children to develop those same habits. Likewise, if you have poor hygiene, your kids may follow suit. Young children don’t understand the causes or effects of tooth decay, but they can learn this from you.
For example, teaching your children about good nutrition, and getting them to eat healthy, is an important first step in establishing life-long habits that will keep their teeth healthy and clean.
Regular cleaning, brushing, and trips to the dentist are also important. Fluoride-free toothpaste is the best option for children. Try a bubblegum flavored toothpaste like Coral Kids Fluoride Free Toothpaste so your kids will enjoy brushing their teeth twice a day.
You can make healthy eating fun by either turning it into a game, or giving your children a range of health choices and then let them pick the specific foods they want to eat. For example, you might give them the choice of eating an apple, green beans, or carrots, and then let them choose one of those. Next time, remove the previous choice and let them choose from three other foods. This introduces the concept of food rotation and “variety.” It also teaches responsible and balanced eating habits.
When it comes time to brush, some children put up a fuss. You can turn this into a fun time for them by playing music and brushing along with your children. You could also buy them a toothbrush with their favorite cartoon character on it.
Buy them a 2 Minute Sand Timer so it’s easy for them to tell how long they should brush their teeth for. Then, let them brush themselves (after you’ve taught them how).
Most children like be or act like grown-ups, so if you give them responsibility within a range of safe choices, you’re fostering independence (which they love) without giving up parental control (which they need).
Far and away, the best way to teach is to lead by example. Your children will follow!!!
Dr. Adam Shepherd is a Board Certified Pediatric Dentist and a Diplomate of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine in 2009.