Children's Dental Health TipsFebruary is National Children’s Dental Health Month, and in recognition we are offering parents and caregivers dental tips for good oral health, and to help instill good dental habits in children. Setting up good habits early is important as ADA statistics show that caries, also known as tooth decay, is the most common, chronic childhood disease in the United States, and it’s five times more common than asthma. It is imperative that good habits are instilled early, because unlike asthma, caries can be easily prevented with knowledge, and good daily hygiene habits.

This year’s National Children’s Dental Health Month campaign theme is “Defeat Monster Mouth”, and in light of that, here are some tips on how to help keep your child’s mouth healthy, and free of cavity causing bacteria:

 

Spit is not clean. Cavities can be spread through saliva, as a caries-causing bacterium is passed through saliva. The main culprit is the bacterium Streptococcus mutans, and these cavity-causing bacteria can be passed from person to person through the transfer of saliva by sharing utensils, kissing, and even by blowing on food. This should be kept in mind even if your child does or does not have teeth, as infancy and the time during your child’s first tooth eruption is when your child is the most susceptible, and their teeth are very vulnerable to decay due to the softness of the enamel. Even if your child has no teeth, as the bacteria tends to stick around and colonize, attacking the teeth when they come in.

When the first tooth erupts, have your child evaluated by a pediatric dentist. Bringing your child to the dentist with his/her first tooth, or no later than their first birthday is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.  Your child’s first dental appointment should be treated like a wellness checkup, and continuous dental checkups are highly recommended. This is highly recommended, especially if you are a new parent, as your dentist should be able to guide you and offer you helpful advice and tips on how to set up proper, healthy dental habits for your children.

When the first tooth comes in, immediately begin to instill daily dental habits. Due to the truly unavoidable bacteria transfer that will occur when you are kissing your child, it is imperative that your child’s tooth or teeth is brushed daily. You should not be waiting until your child is 3 years old, and has their full set of baby teeth in order to begin this daily routine. Your pediatric dentist should be able to help any new parents with this, and should be able to educate them on how to brush, and to how much toothpaste should be used; there is also a wealth of information on this topic on the internet.

Parents should also have good, healthy dental habits. The transmission of mouth bacteria from parents to children is unavoidable; you have to kiss your children, and sometimes their food is too hot, so you have to cool it down by blowing on it. It’s impossible to live in a bubble, but because of this, as a parent or a caregiver you also must have good dental habits to help decrease the likely hood of bacterium transfer. If you don’t have good habits, don’t fret, your children can be excellent motivation to help you fix some of your own bad dental behaviors.

Make brushing fun! Make dental hygiene a routine by using a sticker chart to track and reward brushing. You can download and print one online, make your own, or pick one up from your local store (dollar stores typically carry these charts, as well as stickers, if you are on a budget). This can help motivate your child, in addition to making him/her feel more involved, since marking off each time they brush will give them a daily goal. Lastly, try to tailor the sticker chart, as well as the dental ‘tools’ to your child’s interests, because if kids enjoy what they are doing, they are more likely to continue; helping to ensure that these habits will be lasting ones.

Lastly, be involved. Try to be involved with your children when they are brushing their teeth, and a good way to do so is to brush your teeth with them daily. Not only will you be able to monitor them to ensure that they are developing proper habits, but it can also create fun, lasting memories as well. Plus, as previously mentioned, if you have bad habits yourself this can be a great way to keep yourself on track as well. Another thing is you should bring your child, or children along and allow them to choose (within reason of course) when shopping for a new toothbrush, toothpaste, and for other dental heath items. Additionally, if you take the route of the sticker chart, allow them to pick out the chart, or create one together. Turn the daily mundane tasks into bonding moments that both parties will cherish for a lifetime.