As a parent, you'd probably do anything to protect your child's health -- especially in the midst of a pandemic. But what you might not realize is that their oral care can play a big role in their overall well-being. By ensuring your children take proper care of their teeth now, you'll be lowering their risk of other medical issues later on.
Of course, that doesn't mean that you'll be able to prevent every single cavity. But if you lay the foundation for a lack of dental decay, you'll keep them smiling for years to come. Here are a few basic tips that parents can rely on to keep their kids grinning from ear to ear.
Encourage Proper Brushing and Flossing
This might sound like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised by how many people let their dental routine fall by the wayside. An estimated 91% of Americans between the ages of 20 and 64 have at least one cavity -- but if you can get your kids to care about the state of their teeth from an early age, you may be able to keep them cavity-free. Kids should brush at least twice per day with fluoride toothpaste for at least two minutes. You can time them to make sure they're brushing properly and it's a good idea to help them floss or to observe their flossing habits. There are even apps or games available that can make brushing and flossing more fun.
Maintain a Tooth-Friendly Diet
Although there's no reason to completely outlaw sugar in your home for the sake of maintaining a cavity-free smile, pediatricians and dentists alike agree that sugar intake should be on the lower end for kids. Consuming sugar isn't so much the problem here; it's what happens when those sugars are allowed to remain on the teeth for a prolonged period of time. That's why kids shouldn't have juice in their bottles and why constant snacking isn't recommended. That said, many fruits and veggies can naturally clean the teeth, so don't be shy about giving your kids carrot sticks, celery sticks, or apple slices to munch on. As a rule, however, you should limit their consumption of hard, sticky, and chewy foods. Not only can these lead to dental decay, but they can also exacerbate conditions like TMJD (which affects around 5% to 12% of the population). To encourage proper hydration, stick mostly to water!
Schedule Regular Dental Appointments
Of course, you can't take care of every dental duty at home. Just like it's a good idea to have a pre-participation physical exam performed at least six to eight weeks before a child begins a sports season, you should schedule a dental checkup every six months or so to ensure their development is on the right trajectory. At these exams, your dentist can assess which areas of their dental care routine need to be improved and can even determine whether your child may need treatments like orthodontic work or wisdom teeth extraction. Even if your child exhibits no obvious signs of cavities or discomfort, regular dental visits can help protect your child's teeth with sealants and other treatments. Ultimately, it's one of the best ways to protect your child's oral health as they grow.
With these basic dental tips in mind, parents will be in a great position to prioritize their children's oral care and overall well-being. And while no one feels overjoyed to be in the dentist's chair, these habits can make those visits a lot less painful later on.