By Dr. Shelly Pound, Lake Oconee Dentistry
When it comes to dental health, it pays to build good habits early. In honor of Children’s Dental Health Month, here are five simple things you can do now to help ensure your child has a healthy smile for years to come.
Brush Up on Hygiene
Children should brush and floss twice a day with a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste and a soft bristle toothbrush. Supervise brushing until your child can be counted on to spit, and not swallow, toothpaste—usually not before he or she is 6 or 7.
When teaching a child to brush, place the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle, start along the gumline, and brush in a gentle circular motion. Brush the outer surfaces of each tooth, upper and lower. Repeat on all inside surfaces and chewing surfaces. Finish by brushing the tongue to help freshen breath and remove bacteria. And don’t forget to floss — especially in areas where teeth are touching.
Reach for the Right Snacks
Candy, fruit snacks, soda and cookies won’t do your child any favors when it comes to preventing cavities. But there are also plenty of “healthy” snacks that can be just as problematic. Dried fruit (like raisins), chips, crackers (like Goldfish), pretzels and dried cereals are all high in starches and sugars, which stick to teeth and can cause decay. Opt for cheese, fruits and vegetables instead.
Skip the Sugary Drinks
Sugars in drinks such as juice, sports drinks and milk, mix with bacteria in dental plaque, forming acids that attack tooth enamel for up to 20 minutes after the drink is consumed. Unlike aluminum cans, re-sealable bottles allow your child to sip on these drinks throughout the day, resulting in a high acid level in the mouth and a steady stream of sugar for bacteria to feast on. It’s a recipe for long-term decay along the gum line and between teeth – areas frequently missed when brushing.
Limit these drinks to mealtimes, rather than allowing your child to sip on them for hours. When finished, have your child chew sugarless gum with xylitol, or rinse with plain water, to help neutralize acid levels and keep bacteria in check.
Don’t Discount Baby Teeth
A child’s primary teeth (often called “baby teeth”) are vital to proper jaw development. If your child prematurely loses a baby tooth, it’s important to see a dentist right away. Your child may require a space maintainer to hold the natural tooth space open. Without a space maintainer, existing teeth can tilt toward the empty space, and permanent teeth can come in crooked or become impacted.