Children’s Dental Hygiene: 3 Things You Need to Do ASAP
As a parent, you want to give your child a strong start in life. This includes establishing the foundation for good dental health as early as possible. Here are a few things you can do to help establish a high level of dental hygiene for your child.
1. Discuss the Utility of Dental Sealants
Sealants are liquid coatings that harden on the chewing surfaces of teeth and are showing a great deal of effectiveness in preventing cavities—even on teeth where decay has begun.
The pits and grooves of your teeth are prime areas for opportunistic decay. Even regular brushing sometimes misses these intricate structures on the chewing surfaces of your teeth.
The sealants are applied to the chewing surfaces and are designed to prevent the intrusion of bacteria and other debris into the deep crevices on the tops of teeth.
Sealants actually were developed about 50 years ago, but didn't become commonly used until the 1970s. Today, sealants are becoming widely popular and effective; young children are great candidates for preventative measures like sealants (especially on molars) because in many cases, decay has not set in. Even on teeth where decay is present, sealants have been shown to fight additional damage.
Sealants are applied by first cleaning the tooth surface. The procedure is followed by "etching" the tooth with a chemical substance, which allows the sealant to better adhere. After the sealant is applied, a warm light source is directed to the site to promote faster drying. Sealants usually need re-application every five to 10 years.
2. Help Your Child Break Bad Habits
Many children suck on their fingers, thumbs, or another object to soothe themselves when they are upset. Though this is a normally behavior in babies and young children, thumb sucking can cause a multitude of dental issues if left unchecked.
Some of the issues that thumb sucking contributes to include:
- Narrowing of the jaw
- Development of a crossbite
- Formation of a weakened area in the roof of the mouth
Not only can these issues affect the structure of your child's mouth and the placement of their teeth, but they can also contribute to speech issues, such as a lisp.
If your child is preschool age (between two and four years of age), take action now to help your child stop sucking their thumb. You might want to encourage your child to swap the thumb sucking for another soothing behavior, such as cuddling a stuffed animal or talking to a trusted adult.
Your child may suck their thumb out of habit; if so, call attention to the behavior every time is happens. Some parents have success with encouraging their children to slowly cut back on thumb sucking instead of ceasing the behavior all at once.
3. Rethink Your Child's Snacks
The foods that your child chooses to snack on can affect their dental health. Encourage your child to select healthy items across multiple food groups, such as vegetables, fruit, dairy, and whole grains. Try to limit snacks to a single session instead of allowing your child to graze for extended periods.
There are certain snacks that are known to contribute to the formation of tooth decay. Sticky foods (such as fruit snacks and dried fruit) are notorious for contributing to the development of plaque, in part because the stickiness makes them adhere to the teeth. These items are also relatively high in sugar; sugar acts as a fuel for the bacteria that cause plaque.
Crunchy snacks, like cookies, chips, and crackers, are another potential issue. The starch in these items causes crumbs and particles to accumulate in and around the teeth. Bacteria congregate and feed on these particles, forming plaque on the teeth.
If possible, have your child brush their teeth after snack time to rid the teeth of leftover food particles.
Keep your child's mouth healthy with regular dental examinations. Contact Airport Road Dental Associates, PC, today to request an appointment.