We all know that brushing twice a day should definitely be non-negotiable in your house, especially since experts are seeing more and more kids with cavities. The problem actually starts at preschool age — in fact, more than 25 percent of children aged 2 to 5 years old in the United States have tooth decay, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What’s more, pediatric dental disease is the primary reason children visit the emergency room each year, according to the Forsyth Institute.
So what more can you do to make sure your child’s teeth and gums will be healthy throughout their lifetime? Here are five things you can do right now:
“Early intervention can prevent cavities,” said Dr. Joel H. Berg, president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Berg said children need to see the dentist by the time they turn one — or when the first teeth start coming in.
The dentist can make sure your child’s teeth are coming in properly, assess his or her risk for problems later on, and talk about fluoride and the correct way to brush your child’s teeth. Plus, regular visits before age 3 get your child used to being examined, which can help with any fears they might have and make it a positive experience.
Even if your child isn’t allowed to eat candy or sweets, sugar — even when “natural” — can still show up in formula, milk, juice, fruit and crackers.
Make sure your child is eating a healthy balanced diet and try to avoid sticky or sugary snacks. Offer juice only at mealtime and water in between and never put your baby to bed with a bottle.
Even though baby teeth will eventually fall out, it’s important to take care of them now. Baby teeth hold the place for permanent teeth, are important for speech development, and allow your child to chew nutritious food. Plus, infected baby teeth can actually cause tooth decay in permanent teeth.
“The earlier you can start an oral health practice, the more it becomes just part of the daily health routine,” said Fern Ingber, founding president and CEO of the National Children’s Oral Health Foundation: America’s ToothFairy (and community advocate for underserved women and children).
Starting at birth, wipe your baby’s gums with a damp washcloth after feedings. If your baby has teeth, brush at least twice a day in the morning and at bedtime — or even a little more frequently if time allows. If your baby uses a pacifier, clean it in warm, soapy water – not with your own mouth
Experts agree children aren’t able to brush their teeth properly by themselves until they are around 8 years old, so make supervised brushing a habit while they are young. What’s more, studies show that when parents have their own healthy habits, children are more likely to follow suit. So let your child watch you brush and floss or bring him with you to the dentist. “Let them know it’s a positive time,” Ingber says.
If good oral hygiene is an enjoyable experience for your child, they are far more likely to want to do it. “You want to make this a fun, engaging time where they’re really showing off their smile and their teeth,” said Ingber, who suggests singing songs as you brush or letting your toddler take turns with the toothbrush. You can also create a brushing chart to show off at the next dentist visit.
If you have questions or concerns about your child’s oral health, please feel free to call MacKoul Pediatrics at 239-573-2001. We can provide you with advice and options to help ensure your child grows up with a healthy (and complete) set of teeth.
MacKoul Pediatrics is an amazing local pediatrics office in Cape Coral, FL where caring, compassionate doctors and nurses work with you to keep your children as healthy as possible. MacKoul cares for children from birth to college age, from Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Naples, and beyond.
May 9, 2015