A very common negligence on the part of the parents these days is not taking the oral hygiene of their little kids seriously. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, a child should have his/her first visit to the Dentist within six months of their first tooth eruption or no later than their first birthday. The initial visits to the dentist, firstly, get the child familiar with the environment leading to more stress-free future visits and secondly, helps parents improve the oral hygiene of their child.
With the growing age, the dental health of kids needs to be monitored professionally. Due to the enormous amount of sugary intake of juices, snacks, and formula milk, the instances of developing cavities increases in the early years of the child. Dentists can help guide the parents to reduce and avoid such instances which decrease chances of tooth decay and gives the child better future dental health.
The Significance of Baby Teeth:
According to a report by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the most commonly stated reason accounting for over 65%, of parents who do not take their kid to the dentist, was that “it was too early” or that their child “is too young to see a dentist”. This depicts the false impression in the minds of most parents about the level of importance oral hygiene holds.
Primary teeth are significant for a number of different reasons including, child’s speech development, chewing and appetite, and from a more long-term approach, the primary teeth set a foundation for the permanent teeth to grow on. If the milk teeth decay or fall off too early, there is a high level of chance that the permanent teeth might not come out in their proper place or the decay might lead into the permanent roots. This could mean damage to their adult smile, which can make them self-conscious later on.
In addition to these, the pain of tooth decay and cavities is too much for kids to understand and handle. It is known that they will eventually fall out, nonetheless, they can be severely painful during tooth decay and cavities. This could all lead to long-term treatments, root canals, and capping that can be too long and painful for kids to go through. It’s appropriate to say here that, “Prevention is better than cure”
Factors Contributing to Early Oral Hygiene and Tooth Decay:
- Dipping pacifiers and dummies in honey, jam or sugar
- Foods and drinks loaded with sweeteners and sugar
- Late night milk and food
- Use of bottles and sippy cups till later age and night time
- Irregularity and ignorance in tooth brushing and flossing
- Limited access to fluoridated water
- High intake of Fruit juice and fruit drinks
How to Prepare Yourself and Your Kid for the Very First Dentist Visit:
If parents follow the recommended guideline and book their child’s first dentist appointment within the first six or twelve months, then there is a high chance that the child would be nervous. Any time later than that would result in your child fully understanding that it’s a doctor’s visit and nervousness or panic might come into play.
The best way is to be honest with your little one and prepare them for all noises, machinery, and instruments that they will be saying hello to. Following have been given a few tips to calm those tiny nerves:
- Teaching your child the benefits of oral hygiene through cartoons and fun books
- Have a dentist-patient play around and make the child familiar with the dental checkup routine.
- Sit him down and tell him that the checkup will be good for him and that’s how good kids behave so that he willingly goes in for the checkup; forcing him to go would make the checkup difficult for both the doctor and the child
- Promising a treat afterward can help make the child stay calm during the check up
How Can A Dentist Help Your Child Improve His Oral Hygiene At An Early Age:
The dentist can check for any cavities and tooth decay and treat your child accordingly. They examine your child’s bite and looks for any potential problems with the gums, jaw, and oral tissues. Toddlers are also counseled for thumb sucking since it leaves a bad impact on the teeth.
A one-on-one conversation with the parents about the significance of oral health and how they can help their kids maintain their dental hygiene is undergone. The basic things discussed include:
- Good oral hygiene practices for your child’s teeth and gums and cavity protection
- Ways to properly brush teeth and types of toothbrushes suitable for your little one
- Fluoride needs
- Oral habits (thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, lip sucking)
- Developmental milestones that the teeth of your little one will be coming across and what will be their cleaning and flossing needs
- Teething and how the pain of the process can be eased for kids
- Proper Nutrition: Including diet that helps achieve a better oral hygiene and foods that should be avoided to prevent decay and cavities.
How to Develop Good Oral Habits at Home:
Parents can help form habits for their child at an early stage and these go a long way. The biggest goal for parents is to look out and avoid tooth decay; and according to dentists, the biggest culprit is the child’s sugary diet.
Juices and drinks are loaded with sugar and parents have the impression that these juices are energy for their kids, whereas, it is mere sugar leading to tooth problems and obesity – no good for your child’s health in any way. According to a recent study, the two recommended drinks for any child are milk and water, and milk should only be given during the day. Moreover, sweet and sugary snacks like chocolate cookies and raisins that get stuck in the teeth are yet another reason for the buildup of cavities; savory snacks should be given instead of sweet ones.
Some habits that can help maintain good oral hygiene at home have been given below:
- Shifting from bottles to sippy cups and glasses after the age of one, having milk bottles at night is the key reason of developing tooth decay for children
- Stopping the habit of finger sucking; this leads to tooth misalignment.
- Choosing a fun kids brush and brushing your child’s teeth as soon as the first one erupts.
- Using toothpaste with the minimal amount of fluoride and using just applying a tiny bit to the toothbrush, since too much fluoride ingestion can be dangerous.
- Developing a routine to brush in the morning and before bed under adult supervision.
- Not eating and drinking after brushing for bed and also avoiding sugary snacks that stick to teeth and increase the risk of decay.
- Checking to see if the local water is fluoridated and asking the dentist about an appropriate and suitable fluoride treatment if necessary.
- Breastfed babies have a habit to continuously be fed during the night, this leads to the sugars staying in the mouth for a longer period of time and leads to tooth decay. These babies should not be fed during the night, otherwise, they should be given a sip or two of water afterward so as to clean the mouth and lower the risk of dental decay.
- Infants and toddlers can be highly uncooperative when it comes to brushing teeth but a fun and playful method can help avoid such situations.
- Having timely dental check-ups for milk teeth, be it tooth decay, cavities, or fluoride treatments
It is important for parents to understand that it is their responsibility to develop good oral hygiene habits for their kids. The significance of oral health cannot be ignored and parents need to understand that delaying their child’s first visit to the dentist will only augment the oral health issues for their child leading to a more painful dental health in the future for their little one – this can be avoided if and only if the dentist visit is made in time. Such will help the kids understand the significance of keeping their teeth clean and will turn into a life-long habit.
Once they have had their first dental checkups, they need to visit the dentist every six months so as to keep a constant look out for any decaying or cavities building up in their child’s teeth. This will lead to healthy permanent teeth growth and a lifelong habit of maintaining excellent dental health. Regular visits to the dentist take away the fear of sitting in “the chair” and getting any kind of treatment done since a routine has been established from infancy.
We need to establish an inspiring environment for our kids, such that supports and aids our child’s proper dental hygiene, and at the same time speaks volumes of its significance. Children with healthy teeth smile with confidence, have a better appetite and grow up with a healthier self-esteem.