When we talk about overall health, oral health often doesn’t get the attention it deserves. However, oral health is an integral part of overall wellbeing, especially for children. Good dental health habits and regular check-ups can prevent severe health complications later in life. Pediatric dental care, therefore, serves as the cornerstone for cultivating lifelong oral hygiene habits.
Starting Early: The First Dental Visit
Stereotypically, pediatric dentistry is often delayed until children reach the age when their permanent teeth start appearing, or even later when oral problems begin to show. However, the American Dental Association and The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommend that the first dental visit should be scheduled around the appearance of a child’s first tooth and no later than their first birthday.
Early dental visits can help identify any potential oral health issues at an early stage, such as tooth decay or improper tooth eruption. These check-ups demystify the dental office, helping children build trust and comfort and reducing anxiety and fear linked to dental care. Hence, when scheduling your child’s health check-ups, make sure dental care is placed high on the list.
Nurturing Oral Health Through Nutrition
From supporting growth and development to strengthening immunity, proper nutrition plays a major role in a child’s wellbeing. However, what often goes unrecognized is its significant impact on oral health. Daily food choices can either nourish your child’s teeth or contribute to tooth decay and gum diseases.
Foods high in sugars, starches, and carbohydrates contribute to the production of plaque acids that attack the tooth enamel, causing cavities and gum disease. Hence, it is important to limit sugary and starchy foods, and instead, encourage a diet that promotes oral health.
Foods rich in calcium, including milk, cheese, and yogurt, help rebuild tooth enamel and maintain strong teeth. Phosphorus, found in eggs, fish, and meat, works with calcium to build strong bones and teeth. Additionally, fibrous fruits and vegetables stimulate saliva flow, which neutralizes acids and rinses away food particles.
The role of water also cannot be stressed enough. Encouraging children to drink water post meals washes away leftover food and dilutes the impact of acids produced by bacteria in the mouth.
Instilling Good Dental Hygiene Habits
Ingraining healthy habits from childhood can pave the way to a lifetime of excellent dental hygiene. Encourage your child to brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste to remove dental plaque, a film-like coating that’s the main cause of tooth decay. For children under 3, a smear of toothpaste, approximately the size of a grain of rice is sufficient. For children aged 3 to 6, a pea-sized dollop of toothpaste is recommended.
Flossing daily is equally important. It helps remove the food debris and plaque accumulation between the teeth and along the gum line, areas where a toothbrush can’t always reach. Children should start flossing once they have two teeth that touch.
Make sure to replace toothbrushes every three to four months, or sooner if the bristles are worn out, or if your child has been ill. An old, worn-out toothbrush isn’t as effective in cleaning the teeth and, at times, can harbor harmful bacteria.
Using fun and interactive apps that teach and motivate children to brush their teeth correctly can help make this essential hygiene habit an enjoyable activity.
Pediatric dental care goes beyond immediate dental needs; it lays the groundwork for a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums. By establishing good dental health routines early in life, children can avoid many dental health complications in the future.
Such early introduction to oral care plays a dual role. It not only wards off the immediate risks of cavities and decay but also ingrains oral health responsibility in children, encouraging them to maintain these routines as they mature into adulthood. A close collaboration between parents, children, and pediatric dentists can lead to a generation with healthier smiles and a deeper appreciation for dental hygiene.