We all want to invest in our children and ensure they’re able to live up to their full potential. Whether by choosing the best schools or investing for college, as parents we are constantly evaluating our child’s needs.
With regards to their health, we also invest in their future by ensuring that they receive a healthy diet and get enough activity in their day. And while we first think about health as it relates to diet and nutrition, it’s important to not overlook your children’s dental health.
As we commonly remind our adult patient, your oral health can affect your total body health. This is true for our pediatric patient population as well. While bi-annual check-ups are an essential part of investing in your child’s oral health, that is only part of the picture. As with anything in parenting, it’s also important to guide your child to independence and the sustainability of good habits. Below we will outline other healthy oral habits that will benefit your child in the long run.
Build an oral health routine EARLY
The phrase “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is closer to the truth than many people like to admit. It’s important to begin a comprehensive oral health regimen with your child early so the habit is engrained before they reach those defiant toddler years. This includes getting you infant used to something being in their mouth. Use a wet washcloth to gently wipe off the gums after a nighttime feeding. As they start to grow teeth, transition to a child-sized toothbrush with toothpaste and brush twice a day. Mouthwash isn’t encouraged until the elementary school years since it takes significant coordination to swish and not swallow, but when you think your child is mature enough to use it, incorporate that into their nightly routine. By the time your child is old enough to brush their teeth on their own, they should be in such a set routine that it would be weird to not brush their teeth at night.
Decrease the fear
While we love to see all our patients, we know everyone is not as excited to see us if it means going to a dental appointment—kids in particular. A recent poll indicated that one third of all adults admitted to not seeing the dentist in the past year. In addition, childhood cavities effect approximately 42% of children aged 2 to 11, and when left unfixed can result in damage to the gums and jaw that will follow them to adulthood. In order to combat these statistics, it’s on both the parents and on dental professionals to ensure your child is having a good experience and doesn’t suffer unwarranted anxiety about the visit. On our end, we make the visit as inviting as possible and interact with the child throughout the visit to reassure them of what we are doing. We ask parents to not project any anxiety on their children and possible offer an incentive for coming. Whether it’s a trip for ice cream (don’t forget to brush your teeth after!) or a small toy or gadget, having something to look forward to can make the whole process more enjoyable.
Make it fun
We previously discussed how important a tooth brushing routine is, but one component that can really make it stick is making the experience fun. Whether that’s a special trip to the store to pick out a new toothbrush with their favorite character on it, or toothpaste in bubblegum flavor, don’t let adult rigidity get in the way. The bedtime routine can also be a great opportunity to invest in time together and create memories. Try letting your child brush your teeth before you brush theirs, or make up silly songs together to pass the time. If you child looks forward to their oral health routine, it increases the likelihood it will stick.
Investing in your child’s oral health is an investment in a happy future. From brushing to braces and everything in between, your child’s smile is an import social aspect of their life. Keep it bright and white for life by implementing a solid plan early.
Also published on Medium.