Regardless of your individual oral health condition, there is likely one thing your dentist has told you time and time again: how important it is to maintain good oral hygiene habits. These habits, which include brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing your teeth once a day and visiting the dentist every six months for examinations and cleanings, are absolutely essential to preserving your oral health.
While good oral hygiene habits are essential at any age, they are especially vital in children. Not only are these habits necessary to protect the health of a child’s primary and adult teeth, keeping them free of decay and other dental issues, but establishing good oral hygiene habits early on can help children to maintain them well in the future. This sets the stage for good oral health, and good overall health, long into the future.
The Beginning of Oral Hygiene
Even when children are infants they can benefit from basic oral hygiene habits. For example, infants whose teeth have not yet erupted into the mouth can benefit from having their gums wiped gently with gauze or a soft, wet washcloth. As soon as teeth erupt into the mouth they should be kept clean as much as possible. Infants can have their teeth gently brushed with toothbrushes that are designed specifically for babies, and toddlers can be given age-appropriate toothbrushes and fluoride-free toothpaste to chew on and become familiar with.
By the time a child is one or two years of age they should have their first dental visit. This initial visit may be as simple as becoming familiar with the dental office and meeting the dentist, who may do a very simple visual examination if the child will permit it. Since this visit can very well pave the way to the child’s willingness to participate in future dental visits, the dentist will not force them to participate in an examination or receive services if they are not willing. In the very rare case that a child has a severe dental issue that absolutely must be handled urgently and they are unwilling to participate voluntarily, the dentist will refer you to a specialist who can use the appropriate sedation tools to help the child have as comfortable an experience as possible.
When the child is ready and willing, they will begin to receive regular dental examinations and cleanings to help set them on the firm path to good oral health. Parents are strongly encouraged to be very deeply involved in their child’s oral hygiene habits and regimen until they are in their teens and have proven that they have well-established oral hygiene habits. Your dentist will give you tips on just how to brush and floss your child’s teeth properly, as well as what to watch out for and avoid. Of course, if your child has any specific situations that need special care, your dentist will go over this with you.
Your dentist will also advise you on how your child’s eating habits can affect their oral health, and what you need to do to help protect the health of their teeth and gums. For example, children should generally avoid foods that are rich in sugar or starch. They should also not be permitted to fall asleep while nursing or drinking a bottle of juice or milk, as they tend to hold a small amount of liquid in their mouth and this can eat away at protective tooth enamel.
Understanding the Importance of Primary Teeth
In many cases, parents put less attention on caring for their child’s primary teeth than they should. They may figure it’s not terribly important since they will replaced by permanent adult teeth at some point. However, a child’s primary teeth are an important part of their oral development, and their health helps to better ensure the health of the child’s permanent teeth. Furthermore, some of the issues that can affect the health of primary teeth can also affect general oral health, which means they may not simply “go away” when the child’s primary teeth fall out.
Taking good care of a child’s primary teeth sets the stage for good oral health long into the future, and better ensures that future dental care will be preventive rather than restorative in nature. For more information about dentistry for kids, contact Today’s Dental now.