Happy New Year! If you made some resolutions this year, we have another one you can add to your list: improving your children’s oral health with excellent oral hygiene practices and smile-friendly habits. Oral health is so important and, in fact, it has a direct link to overall health, which is why teaching kids about caring for their teeth and gums early on is key. Our Naperville dentists for kids are here to help by sharing seven ways you can strengthen your child’s smile.
1. Have Kids Brush Their Teeth Twice a Day
Have kids brush their teeth with a child-sized toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day, in the morning and before bed. Use a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste, about the size of a grain of rice, as soon as your baby gets their first tooth, and then increase this to a pea-size amount at age three. Older kids can use a small ribbon of toothpaste across the head of their toothbrush.
Teach children a proper tooth brushing technique and let them try to have a go at brushing on their own once they have the dexterity. Supervise kids’ teeth brushing until about age eight or once you feel confident they’re doing a great job. In addition to having kids brush their teeth twice a day, be sure they’re brushing for two minutes each session.
2. Floss Once a Day
Flossing is another key to oral health for kids (and adults). Flossing gets rid of the plaque between the teeth and along and under the gum line that can’t be reached with a toothbrush. Plaque build up due to a lack of effective brushing and flossing is one of the leading causes of tooth decay in children, so make flossing a priority! While you can have kids floss their teeth at any time, doing it at night before brushing the teeth will ensure all of the food debris, bacteria, and plaque from the day will hit the road.
3. Rinse After Eating
There’s no need to have kids brush their teeth after every meal and snack (unless they’re in braces treatment). However, rinsing with water after eating or drinking is a great idea. It’s like a bath for the teeth and will wash away food debris and bacteria. It also encourages the flow of saliva, which helps remineralize kids’ teeth.
4. Offer a Well-Rounded, Healthy Diet That’s Light on Sugary Drinks and Treats
The bacteria in the mouth feed on sugars and starches and when they do, they release acids that eat away at the tooth enamel. Eventually, holes, or cavities, form in the teeth. That’s why a diet high in sugar and starches is another of the common causes of tooth decay in children. Enjoy sugary treats, sticky foods and simple carbohydrates like chips and white bread in moderation. Certain beverages, such as soda and sports drinks, are both sugar-filled and acidic, which is doubly harmful for enamel, so have little ones avoid them as much as possible.
Instead, encourage kids to eat a healthy diet with lean proteins, colorful fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats and adequate calcium for teeth, whether in the form of low-fat dairy or dairy substitutes that have added calcium. Fibrous. fresh fruits and vegetables (i.e., apples and carrots) have the added benefit of scraping away plaque as kids eat them. Lastly, serve water as your child’s main drink and source of hydration.
5. Schedule Regular Visits With Your Pediatric Dentist
A pediatric dentist is a dentist just for kids. We’re like the pediatricians of the tooth world. We’re trained in children’s oral health needs, as well as behavioral techniques to help kids relax and feel at ease. Plus, since our practice itself is designed just for kids, it has all sorts of fun perks like child-themed rooms and, post-pandemic, our kidzCave arcade game room and kidzFlix cinema.
During regular exams, we make sure your child’s dental and facial development are on track, check for cavities and other concerns, determine if their teeth and gums are healthy and evaluate any oral habits. If we do spot problems, we can jump in early while they’re easier to treat. We also educate parents and help kids develop an excellent homecare routine.
At pediatric dental checkups, we perform professional dental cleanings for kids too. The hygienist uses special tools to remove hardened plaque (tartar) that can’t be eliminated at home. We’ll usually finish up with a fluoride treatment and, if indicated, dental sealants. These preventative measures further reduce the risk of tooth decay in children.
6. Don’t Put Off Necessary Dental Work on Baby Teeth
When a child has tooth decay, it won’t get better on its own. We’ve had a lot of parents ask why baby teeth need fillings, white crowns or other restorations when they’re going to fall out anyway. First and foremost, if not treated, a cavity will continue to grow and can cause infection and/or affect the underlying permanent tooth. Second, cavities are very painful, which isn’t just unpleasant but can also make it hard for kids to concentrate in school.
Eventually, if tooth decay in children does lead to infection, in severe cases, that will mean losing the tooth or needing a baby root canal (pulpotomy) or extraction. If we do a baby root canal, we can use a white crown on the tooth to restore its strength and appearance. White crowns are made of a tooth-colored, zirconia material that’s metal-free, safe and durable.
An alternative to a root canal and a white crown on a tooth is extraction. If we extract the tooth, it will usually be necessary to place a dental space maintainer. This will prevent the other teeth from shifting and blocking the permanent tooth from coming in properly. If the tooth just falls out on its own and nothing is done, the infection can result in gum disease in children, impact the permanent tooth below, spread to other teeth and lead to the aforementioned shifting of teeth.
Your best bet for avoiding things like tooth loss, baby root canals, white crowns, extractions, and dental space maintainers altogether is to seek treatment for baby teeth with cavities as soon as possible. Treatment will be much easier and less invasive the earlier a cavity is caught. Sometimes, we can even reverse early decay.
7. Embrace Fluoride
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that binds to the tooth’s structure making your child’s teeth more resistant to the cavity-causing acids attacks from plaque. In young children, fluoride actually gets incorporated into the permanent teeth for long-term benefits. While too much fluoride can lead to fluorosis, too little fluoride makes kids more susceptible to tooth decay.
How can you be sure kids are getting enough fluoride? In addition to using fluoride toothpaste and opting for topical fluoride treatments at the dentist, kids can get necessary fluoride from tap water. If you’re not comfortable with your child drinking tap water, look for water brands that contain added fluoride or talk with your pediatric dentist about fluoride supplements.
These are seven of the ways kids can improve their oral health in 2021. If you’re looking for a dentist just for kids, schedule a visit at Innovative Pediatric Dentistry in Naperville, IL. Our pediatric dental specialists will work with you to help your child achieve a strong, healthy smile for life!