Developing good dental habits at an early age helps children get a good start on a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums. Here are some tips from the American Dental Association’s MouthHealthy.org:
• Even though they’re temporary, baby teeth are susceptible to cavities. Never put baby to bed with a bottle because it can lead to tooth decay and cavities. Most cavities in baby teeth come from frequent, prolonged exposure to drinks that contain sugar. Also, be wary of using a bottle as a pacifier for a fussy baby, which can cause tooth decay.
• Thumbsucking is a natural soothing reflex for children but may cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth, alignment of the teeth and the roof of the mouth. Tips for helping your child stop thumbsucking:
1. Praise your child for not sucking.
2. Children often suck their thumbs when feeling insecure or needing comfort. Focus on correcting the cause of the anxiety and provide comfort to your child.
3. For an older child, involve him or her in choosing the method of stopping.
• Brushing is the cornerstone of healthy teeth and gums. Have children brush teeth with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day with a child-sized soft-bristled brush. Replace the toothbrush every three or four months, or sooner if the bristles are frayed. A worn toothbrush won’t do a good job of cleaning your teeth. And, don’t forget to floss once a day to remove plaque between teeth.
• If your child plays sports, encourage the use of a mouthguard, which can help cushion blows that would otherwise cause broken teeth, injuries to the lips and face and sometimes even jaw fractures. Mouthguards are available for purchase at sports stores, or ask your dentist about custom-fitted mouth protectors.
• Is your child cavity-prone? Sealants are a fast and easy way to protect teeth so a cavity doesn’t form. Sealants are applied—kind of painted on—to the chewing surfaces of back teeth and to cover deep pits and grooves. Protecting teeth from decay, sealants hold up well under the force of normal chewing but may have to be reapplied if needed.
—Melissa Erickson | More Content Now