Kid's Dental Health: More Than Teeth Brushing - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on March 06, 2015

Kid's Dental Health: More Than Teeth Brushing

Kid's Dental Health: More Than Teeth Brushing

Dental and oral disease affect more than
50 percent of children in the U.S.

When you’re the parent of a baby, toddler or young child, you are constantly worried about their wellbeing. You make sure there aren’t any sharp edges or dangerous substances or objects within their reach. And you also regularly take them to the doctor to make sure they’re going up healthy and strong.

But an aspect of children’s health that is often overlooked is their dental health. According to the U.S. Public Health Service, dental and oral disease are one of the most prevalent yet preventable conditions among young children – it affects more than 50 percent of children in the U.S. And tooth decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease.

Tooth decay and infections can happen when children’s oral health is ignored. Parents often justify putting off filling a cavity if it’s in a tooth the child may lose one day. However, that’s not the best approach. Not only are they painful for kids, but cavities and decay in baby teeth can also spread to their permanent teeth.

The good news is this decay and pain can be prevented before your child even has his or her first tooth with regular preventative care and a healthy diet.

Even though you can’t see them, babies are born with all of their teeth hidden in their gums. Healthy gums give way to healthy teeth, so wipe their gums with a washcloth after feeding them. When their teeth do start to come in, brush them with a soft bristle tooth brush and water twice a day. And make their first dentist appointment before their first birthday.

When your child turns 3, start using fluoride toothpaste to brush their teeth. Just make sure you’re only using a pea-sized amount and that he or she spits it out after brushing. Fluoride protects their teeth from tooth decay.

At about 3 or 4 years old, you should try to break your child’s thumb-sucking and pacifier habits. This is also the age when you should start taking your child to the dentist every six months.

When your child’s teeth begin to touch, usually between 6 and 9 years old, you should begin flossing their teeth. Until they are able to properly brush and floss their teeth on their own, you should help them twice a day. When kids are around this age, they tend to focus on only the front teeth they can see, so teach them how to brush every single tooth from top to bottom, inside and out. This is especially true for their back teeth, which may have more plaque.

While regular brushing and flossing are crucial for your child’s dental health, their diet also plays a role. Sugar can do some serious damage to their teeth. The risk of cavities increases the longer and more frequently children’s teeth are exposed to sugar. Sticky sugars are even worse – these include things like caramel, toffee, gum, fruit chews, chewy candies and dried fruits. With these treats, their teeth are not only being exposed to sugar, but these foods are getting stuck to teeth. If your child does have a sugary treat, brush their teeth after. Letting that sugar linger for hours is what leads to cavities and decay.

In addition, be mindful of what your child is drinking. Drinking a sugary drink (and believe it or not this also includes milk) out of a sippy cup can wreak havoc on their teeth.

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