Because good dental hygiene needs to be practiced for a person’s entire life, it is a good idea to start establishing beneficial dental habits while your child is young. Until the age of six, children need parents to help them brush their teeth because they do not yet possess the dexterity necessary for doing a good job. However, children who are not yet six years old can still practice checking their teeth to make sure they are clean by running their tongue along the surfaces of their teeth. If their teeth feel smooth, then they are sufficiently clean.
When a child is old enough to brush without assistance, give them some pointers about how to brush properly. Remind them that they need to brush their teeth twice a day, brushing all surfaces of the teeth, all the way down to the gumline. The tongue should also be brushed. It is important to be gentle while brushing teeth, as vigorous brushing can damage sensitive gums. Toothbrushes should be replaced every three to four months. In addition to brushing every day, it is also important to floss every day because toothbrushes cannot clear away the bacteria and food that resides between teeth.
Another good habit to establish is maintaining a balanced diet. A balanced diet has many benefits, including improved dental health. Consumption of the right foods helps to build and support strong, healthy teeth. Additionally, reduced sugar intake limits the amount of harmful bacteria build-up in the mouth. When children do consume sugary foods or drinks, they should do so directly after meals. Eating sugar constantly throughout the day and in between meals leads to greater damage to teeth.
Also, after the age of five, thumb sucking can cause front teeth to protrude forward, teeth to be unable to clench together properly, or a lisp. Braces or a retainer are usually required to correct the oral problems created by prolonged thumb sucking. To avoid having to spend unnecessary time and money at the orthodontist’s office, try to help your child break their thumb-sucking habit if it continues past the age of five.
Other bad habits to avoid include oral piercings and tobacco use. Both habits have negative implications for your child’s oral health, and tobacco causes other health problems within the body.
Lastly, to prevent unforeseen injuries to the mouth, encourage your child to wear a mouth guard. The National Youth Sports Safety Foundation predicts that more than 3 million teeth will depart from their owner’s mouths this year because of injuries sustained in organized sports. Children with braces run an even greater risk of injury, as the braces may slice the inside of the mouth if physical contact to that area occurs.
These injuries are easily prevented. Mouth guards (which generally cost $20 or less) greatly reduce the extent of damage to the teeth. The American Dental Association found that around 200,000 injuries are prevented each year by the use of mouth guards. Though not all sports require players to wear mouth guards, we recommend that you help your child develop the habit of wearing this inexpensive gear whenever they engage in sports.