Oral health and hygiene is the cornerstone to good overall health of a child. Oral health is often underscored in terms of its importance in contribution to good health. However, parents will be interested to know that good oral health in childhood can pave the way to a lifetime of good oral health. Conversely, poor oral health can result in dental pain, tooth infections, loss of teeth, mal-positioned teeth and discolored teeth. This leads to loss of school days due to repeated dental pain and infections, inability to eat and chew properly and ultimately, malnutrition. Further, loss of a pleasing appearance of your child’s smile eventually results in loss of self esteem and self confidence, during crucial development years.
As a parent, a few easy to follow steps can help you along the road to good oral health.
7 Tips to Ensure Good Dental Health of Your Child
1. Brush daily – with a fluoridated toothpaste
Brushing for a child should begin as soon as the first baby tooth is spotted in the mouth. This can be done by using a clean cloth to wipe the teeth, baby tooth wipes or a soft baby brush. For children with almost or complete set of baby teeth, brushing must include a fluoridated toothpaste, once the child has learnt how to spit out excess toothpaste. Fluoride has proven benefits in preventing dental tooth decay.
So how much fluoridated toothpaste should you use for your child?
Less than 3 years – smear or rice sized amount
3- 6 years – ‘pea’ (Hindi: matar dana) amount
Beyond 6 years – as adult amount.
2. Brush in the morning, brush at night
Brushing must be incorporated into a child’s schedule of dental hygiene as soon as possible. It is imperative to make your child brush, with your assistance, in the morning and before sleeping, at night. Beyond 7- 8 years, a child develops sufficient hand movements to allow him/her to brush on his/her own, but as a parent, you will have to ensure regular brushing takes place, as children might try to avoid this potentially boring task. Avoid eating or drinking (except water) after night brushing. For babies who feed at night, a sip of water or tooth wiping with a damp clean cloth, after feeding, helps to keep the mouth clean.
Read More: When to Start Brushing Baby’s Teeth?
3. Limit acidic and sugar heavy drinks
Acid containing drinks such as soft drinks, colas, fruit juices and sports drinks typically cause erosion of the dental enamel of the tooth. These drinks are also typically high in sugar content, which results in dental decay. The total amount of added sugar in a child’s diet should be less than 25 grams. Juices should not be offered to children before 1 year of age. As per the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry guidelines, the amount of juice per day as per age is-
For children between the ages of 1 – 3 years – 4 ounces a day (approximately 118 ml),
4-6 years – 4 – 6 ounces a day (approximately 118 – 177 ml), and
7- 18 years – 8 ounces a day (approximately 236 ml) only.
4. Limit in-between meal snacking
Frequent in-between meal snacking is associated with greater levels of dental decay. High levels of between meal consumption of sugar-containing snacks or drinks such as juice, formula, soft drinks can lead to dental decay rapidly. Night-time drinking of juice or sweetened drinks can further result in tooth decay.
Read More: 21 Healthiest Veg Snack Recipe for Kids
5. Watch out for harmful oral habits
Many oral habits such as thumb sucking, night grinding and lip and nail biting develop in childhood. These lead to displacement and mal-positioning of baby teeth initially and permanent teeth later on. Such habits must be brought to the attention of a children’s dentist or orthodontist if they persist beyond the age of 3- 4 years, to avoid harmful consequences in the future to your child’s appearance and tooth alignment.
6. Regular dental check ups
A parent may not always be able to spot the first signs of dental decay or gum disease. It is best to visit a pediatric (children’s) dentist every 6 months for a professional opinion on your child’s dental health. A pediatric dentist may offer professional tooth cleaning services, advice on caring for your child’s teeth, fluoride application if needed as well as dietary and tooth cleaning advice to avoid tooth decay.
7. Provide your child with a nutritious and well balanced diet
One of the easiest ways to ensure good oral health is to provide children a well balanced diet. This means a child’s diet should include all major food groups – carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals as well as good water hydration. Milk intake is important from infancy itself through mother’s feed up to 12 months of age and later external milk, to ensure good dental health.
A lot of variety in food grains, fruits and vegetables must be provided to allow children the benefit of different vitamins and minerals. Variety also encourages interest in eating for children. Foods containing high levels of sugar, salt, trans-fats and saturated fats should be avoided, right from childhood. This includes food such as cold drinks, chocolates, juices, packaged foods such as chips and the like. Good overall body nutrition translated to strong dental foundation and decreased chances of dental decay. Soft tissues of the mouth such as lips and gums also benefit through a healthy diet.
A parent must be vigilant about the oral health and hygiene practices of their child, right from the start. It is merely a matter of developing the right tooth cleaning and dietary practices can go a long way in ensuring a lifetime of good oral health for your child. The emotional and physical cost of poor dental health can be very detrimental to a child’s basic functions of eating and smiling, and take a toll on the child’s self esteem as well.
Do it right, from the start!