Dental health is in the news again, which makes it important to know that your information is coming from trusted and reputable sources to ensure your child’s dental and overall health are properly addressed. As parents, we want our children to grow up healthy and have good oral hygiene habits, yet experts say dental health in children in the United Sates is not where it should be (Relevant, 2015).
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry’s 2007 report states that cavities in children ages 2 to 5 increased from 24% to 28%, and that those who have not visited a dentist in the last 12 months are more likely to have cavities on their primary (or baby) teeth than those who visit the dentist regularly.
Primary teeth are important for early childhood development. Cavities in young children can negatively affect speech and the ability to eat a well-balanced diet, cause sleep deprivation, and interfere with learning and overall quality of life.
So where are we going wrong as parents?
1. Putting your child to bed with a bottle or sippy cup
Try to get in a routine of bottle, brush, and then bed. If nighttime feedings are still necessary, wipe out your child’s mouth afterwards. Constant exposure to sugar feeds the cavity-causing bacteria.
2. Not making your child’s first dental appointment early enough
You should make your child’s first appointment when the first tooth erupts or no later than your child’s first birthday. As a pediatric practice, we are more concerned at this age about educating parents on proper oral hygiene and diet. Make your appointment so that you can learn how to prepare your child for a lifetime of healthy teeth.
3. Allowing your kids to brush their teeth too young
Before children have the fine motor skills or ability to understand the importance of brushing their teeth, they should not be left to brush on their own. You should brush your child’s teeth until the age of 6. If you allow your children to brush their own teeth, you must follow up to make sure they cleaned all surfaces.
4. Not watching what your kids eat
Today’s food is becoming more processed, and sugar is in almost every product. This constant bombardment of sugar causes your mouth to have a consistently acidic environment, which leads to cavities. Teach your child how to make good food choices and be wary of products high in sugar.
5. Fluoride-free toothpaste
Many parents believe it’s bad to expose children to fluoride. However, when teeth first erupt, the enamel is still maturing, and fluoride can absorb into the enamel. This makes teeth stronger and less susceptible to cavities.
6. The “They are just baby teeth” mentality
Primary teeth are VERY important for maintaining space for permanent teeth. Loosing baby teeth and not saving space will stop permanent teeth from erupting—an orthodontic nightmare. Primary teeth are also important for speech development, proper nutrition, and overall well being.
Relevant, Julie. “7 Mistakes Parents Make with Their Kids’ Teeth.” FoxNews.com. February 8, 2015. http://www.foxnews.com/health/2015/02/08/7-mistakes-parents-make-with-their-kids-teeth/.