While adult teeth only become permanent by the age of 12 or 13, it is important to teach your children healthy habits early on. Not only will that stand them in good stead now, but it will lay a good foundation for their future. Setting a healthy example and teaching good oral care habits should start from the time when your child’s first tooth emerges from their gummy smiles. Here are some of the best ways to protect your children’s teeth.
1. Limit their sugar intake
It’s not a fallacy – sugar is bad for teeth, and especially so for young, developing teeth. Sugar needs salivary acids to digest it, and when sugar becomes lodged between teeth or on the gums, the acids eat away at the enamel of the teeth. Since sugar causes tooth decay, it should be limited. Don’t worry about depriving your child of sweets, because it is an addictive substance. If you limit it from a young age, your child will not crave it as much.
2. But back on juices
Juice is not as healthy as many parents tend to think. It contains a lot of concentrated sugar, and you already know how bad sugar is for teeth. Juice should be an occasional treat, rather than a daily meal accompaniment. Water and milk offer much more health benefits.
3. Teach healthy oral hygiene habits
As soon as your child has his or her first tooth, buy a suitable toothbrush and toothpaste and start teaching them how to hold it, and how to use it. Brush your child’s teeth after each meal, or at least morning and night.
4. Teach your child to floss
An alarming amount of adults don’t floss their teeth. Many have given up because they don’t see results, but they don’t realize that that is because they don’t know how to flush. If you don’t know how to flush, speak to your dentist. Flossing is an important habit to teach your kids, and it can prevent many expensive oral diseases, and potentially missing teeth.
5. Buy a mouthguard for physical activity
If your school-aged children are active in sports and other activities, invest in a mouthguard. It is great for children who grind their teeth while they are asleep, and during physical activity, it protects their teeth from damage. Remember, damaged teeth can’t grow back. Mouthguards also help to maintain the form and shape of your child’s teeth.
Children should use a good quality fluoride toothpaste for children, twice daily for two minutes at a time. It might be a good idea to invest in a timer. Teach your child to eat right, and schedule his or her first dental appointment within a year of the first tooth showing up. Find a child-friendly, gentle dentist who provides family dentistry services, and get your child into the routine of visiting the dentist every 6 months.
When your child is a little bit older, your dentist may recommend a dental sealant, which is a thin plastic coating that provides a barrier against cavities.