In his famous novel, Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes wrote, “Every tooth in a man’s head is more valuable than a diamond.” And that is so true; good dental health is an invaluable legacy that we can pass onto our children. I see the proof of it every time one of my children flashes a toothy grin or a dazzling smile.
Children brought up without good dental habits are often subject to frequent visits to their dentist later in life, whether it is for extra teeth whitening or other forms of cosmetic dentistry. Some children never visit a dentist until they reach school age, while others spend their entire childhood never stepping foot inside a dentist’s office.
Each of my children had their first visit to the dentist within a few weeks of cutting their first tooth. Dentists agree that around six months of age is a good time to schedule the first visit. Children who visit the dentist from an early age have fewer problems visiting the dentist later in life, especially if they’re required to undergo forms of cosmetic dentistry, like orthodontics to fix crooked teeth.
Here are 7 things you can do to promote good dental hygiene for your own family members:
- Dental hygiene begins when the first tooth is cut, and parents can promote good dental hygiene by letting children chew on soft, clean teething toys. Parents can also wipe their children’s teeth with a soft cloth, and begin using a child-sized toothbrush once the molars cut through.
- Brush your teeth together. When children see their parents enjoying the act of brushing their teeth, they will learn to enjoy it as well. Be sure to talk about how good it feels to have a clean mouth and how fresh-smelling it leaves their breath after.
- Monitor toothpaste use because using too much toothpaste can be as bad as using too little, especially if the toothpaste is fortified with extra fluoride. Fluoride helps make teeth strong and fights cavities, but too much can stain teeth and cause them to break down. Because small children sometimes swallow the toothpaste, only use a dot about half the size of an adult fingernail.
- Flossing is difficult for small children because they do not possess the hand dexterity to hold the floss in the proper way. Because of this, sealants are a good option, as they provide a protective coating over baby molars that are hard to reach. A good gauge of when children are ready to try flossing is when they begin writing legibly without assistance. Because children should see the dentist regularly, you can always ask the office’s dental assistant to show your child the proper way to hold floss for use in cleaning teeth.
- Select toothpaste for kids, because grown-up toothpastes often have a strong, minty flavor. Even some brands for children cause the inside of the mouth to sting. While it might be trying to go through the trial and error of finding toothpaste that fits the needs of your family, or having several types on-hand for multiple family members, it’s a small price to pay when compared to the value of a healthy set of teeth.
- Kid-friendly dentists are imperative when developing your children’s good dental habits. One bad experience during childhood can lead to a lifetime of dental phobia. Avoiding the dentist’s office has potentially serious consequences, especially if a problem arises that isn’t caught in time for proper treatment.
- Good eating habits are also part of good dental health. Children taught from an early age to foster a love of fresh fruits and vegetables, almonds, and drinking plenty of water over unhealthy choices such as sugary sweets and soda pop are more likely to have whiter smiles and healthier teeth and gums.
Consult your family’s dentist for more tips about good oral hygiene and ways to naturally brighten your smiles. You may be able to prevent your children from needing cosmetic dentistry later in life. If anyone in your family has pain, sores that refuse to heal, loose adult teeth, gums that bleed, or any kind of growth inside their mouths, then it’s time to pay a call to the dentist as soon as possible.
This is a guest post by Becky James-Muth, a freelance writer whose interest in dental health for families was inspired for her own family’s dental habits. For her current series of articles on kid’s dentistry and healthy dental tips for families, she sought the help of Dr. Diane Bird, a Vancouver BC dentist. Becky also enjoys bowling, traveling, and gardening.
Photo by newsusacontent