The number one chronic childhood disease may surprise you. It’s not juvenile diabetes, asthma, or obesity. The most common disease plaguing children today is tooth decay. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 42% of children between ages two and 11 have cavities in their baby teeth — that’s nearly half of all children in the U.S. Tooth decay is 20 times more prevalent than diabetes, five times more than asthma, and four times more than obesity, according to The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Childhood tooth decay can have lasting, devastating effects on your child’s oral development; fortunately, this chronic disease is almost entirely preventable.
It’s easy to overlook the importance of routine dental cleanings for children, especially when their teeth are just starting to emerge. However, your child’s baby teeth are at risk for decay as soon as they first appear — typically around six months of age. Sugar consumption and lack of routine oral hygiene from the start can cause a harmful reaction to bacteria in the mouth, resulting in cavities or even gum disease.
As with many matters of health, prevention is key. Teach your children good dental habits early, and they’ll enjoy healthy teeth for years to come. Read on to learn how you can make your child’s daily oral routine something they’ll actually look forward to.
Preventing childhood tooth decay can largely be done at home with routine, daily dental care: brushing, flossing, and avoiding too many sugary beverages and snacks. Easy enough, right? Not quite. As many parents will agree, oftentimes kids view “brushing time” as a chore. And if your child doesn’t like the task, it’s going to be even harder to establish that task as daily routine. That’s why we’ve curated some foolproof tips below for making dental care an easy new habit for your little one.
- Pick out a special toothbrush together.
Allow your child to pick out their own toothbrush. If your child has ownership in the process, he or she will be more willing to take part.
- Don’t forget toothpaste!
While adults tend to prefer toothpaste with minty flavors, children’s palettes do not. Look for fun flavors like bubblegum, strawberry, or even sugar-free chocolate. Then, make sure to limit the amount of toothpaste on your child’s brush. Kids who are aged 3 – 6 need only a pea-size amount of fluoridated toothpaste on their brush in order to scrub properly. Children younger than three need only a rice-sized amount on their brush.
- Pump up the jams.
When it’s time to brush those teeth, turn on some tunes! Let your child pick out their favorite Disney track or song. Most songs are around two minutes long, which just so happens to be the dentist-recommended amount of time for brushing. So not only will music make brushing more fun, but it’ll also serve as a timer for you and your child.
- Start flossing.
No, we’re not referring to the viral dance move here. As soon as your child’s teeth start to touch, it’s time to start flossing. Kids flossers are designed for little hands and are easier for children to maneuver around their mouth with help from Mom or Dad.
- Snack smart.
Sugary snacks and drinks are one of the main culprits of childhood tooth decay. Start making healthy eating a habit by always keeping fresh cut fruits and veggies on hand. Before bedtime, try to avoid giving your child milk or juice. The natural sugars in these drinks can settle on your child’s teeth overnight.
- Lead by example.
Your children learn by your example. Take the lead and brush alongside your children as they get ready for the day.
The Importance of Professional Cleanings
While it’s important to instill good oral hygiene habits at home, that’s really only half of the equation. Within six months of your child’s first tooth emerging, it’s time to schedule a dental visit.
The primary objective of your child’s first dental exam is to examine his or her mouth for proper growth and development, to provide a gentle first cleaning, and to further educate your child on good oral habits. Your Ozark, MO dentists are well-equipped to make your child feel comfortable and at ease upon their first visit to Excel Dental. Establishing trust with a dentist early in life is critical for ensuring that regular dental visits remain a lifelong habit for your child.
During your child’s appointment, your Springfield, MO dentist will also work to determine if your child is engaging in habits which could negatively impact their dental health, such as poor flossing, brushing, or teeth grinding. X-rays may be ordered to help diagnose any potential problems with your child’s adult teeth as they start to emerge.
We recommend that parents schedule regular dental check ups every six months, or more frequently if recommended. Taking your child to the dentist regularly at an early age will help them to continue practicing healthy dental habits well into adulthood.
A Healthy Smile is a Happy Smile!
Give your child the gift of a great smile by instilling proper dental habits today. Make an appointment for your child to meet the trusted team at Excel Dental, Dr. Tracy Davis or Dr. Nick Matthews. Find us in Ozark, Missouri — just a short 10 minute drive from Springfield. We can’t wait to brighten your child’s smile and their day with our friendly dental care.
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