Strong teeth and healthy gums play a vital role in your child’s development. In addition to ensuring your child enjoys quality oral health as he or she grows into adulthood, the healthy development of your child’s teeth also helps to prevent the onset of a variety of problems, including misaligned bite, difficulty eating, and a speech impediment.
Even though a child will shed his baby teeth prior to the development of adult teeth, parents need to tend to their child’s oral health at a young age to ensure no problems arise when permanent teeth arrive. To help you protect the health of your child’s teeth, here are a few simple steps every parent should take when dealing with their child’s oral health.
Schedule Dental Visits Early
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentists recommend that parents schedule a child’s initial dental visit shortly after her first tooth emerges or by the age of 12 months, whichever comes first. While this might seem early to some parents, dental visits at this young age allow your dentist the opportunity to check the health of your child’s gums and to spot any potential problems with the development of baby teeth.
Once your child has developed her baby teeth, dental visits provide your dentist the opportunity to look for any early signs of decay that could negatively impact her oral health. If you don’t believe that tooth decay is that big a problem in kids, consider that one out of every four children suffers from untreated tooth decay, according to the Center for Public Integrity. In fact, tooth decay now ranks as the number one chronic illness among school-aged children.
Early dental visits can help treat decay before any problems can progress. In extreme cases, the decay of a child’s baby teeth becomes so extreme a dentist has no other treatment options other than to remove the tooth before it’s ready to fall out naturally. When a child loses a baby tooth at too young an age, the remaining teeth may start to shift out of position to fill the vacant spot in his mouth. When this occurs, permanent teeth may form crooked or crowded, leading to the development of a misaligned bite or a number of other serious oral health issues.
Better to schedule a dental appointment too early rather than too late.
Handle the Oral Hygiene
Parents need to take control of their child’s oral hygiene from about six months on. Following each feeding, you should wipe your child’s gums clean using a soft cloth, and graduate to using a child sized toothbrush once baby teeth begin to form. You should also begin flossing your child’s teeth after two or more teeth have grown together to remove any built up plaque or lingering food particles trapped between teeth.
As your child grows older, you might feel tempted to start handling over more responsibilities to him, including brushing and flossing. However, young children simply don’t possess the motor skills needed to brush until they reach the age of six or seven. Even then most don’t possess the maturity to take their oral hygiene habits seriously. While each child varies, you need to make sure your child understands the importance of brushing and flossing before handing over control of oral hygiene habits.
If you catch your child simply wetting his brush and claiming he brushed, you may need to reconsider whether to take back control over these duties until he gets a little older. Dental visits alone won’t prevent the development of tooth decay if your child doesn’t practice quality oral hygiene at home.