122406213 (1)Ask parents what the most common chronic disease is among children between the age of six to 11 and teens 12 to 19 and the majority might be very surprised to learn the answer- tooth decay. In fact, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, tooth decay occurs five times more frequently in children than asthma and seven times more frequently than hay fever. By the time kids are old enough to attend kindergarten, 40 percent of children suffer from some level of tooth decay.

Neglecting to adequately care for a child’s baby teeth isn’t the only mistake parents make when tending to their child’s oral health. To help you provide your child with the type of oral care he or she needs to ensure a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums, here are three steps every parent should take.

Visit the Dentist Early

According to recommendations by both the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents should start scheduling appointments for their child with a dentist by the time he or she turns one.

Scheduling early dental appointments provide your dentist with the opportunity to assess the development of your child’s teeth and to spot any early signs of tooth decay. Additionally, providing your child with preventative dental care at an early age can help you save money in the long run. A study conducted by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention found that a child’s dental cost were reduced by 40 percent if they started receiving dental care by the age of one when compared to children whose dental care started later in life.

Teach How to Brush and Floss Correctly

Scheduling appointments for your child with the dentist is only half the battle when trying to prevent tooth decay. Your child’s teeth still need brushing and flossing regularly to remove bacteria and lingering food particles that contribute to tooth decay.

Because young children don’t possess either the motor control or attention required to brush or floss correctly, parents need to handle these duties until their child turns six or seven. It’s around this age that children begin to develop the motor skills necessary to brush correctly. However, just because your child is old enough to brush doesn’t mean he or she will know the correct way to brush. Ask your dentist to show you the correct techniques to teach your child on how to brush and floss.

When taking care of your child’s brushing, remember to use a child-sized brush that will fit comfortably inside your child’s mouth. Using a brush that features too large of a head can make brushing uncomfortable for your child, which could result in her resisting to brush when old enough to take over the habit.

Make Oral Hygiene a Priority

Many parents experience resistance from their kids when trying to get them to brush and floss before bedtime. Just because your son or daughter starts to throw a tantrum when the time comes to take care of their oral hygiene doesn’t mean that parents should give in and let their child give up brushing, flossing, and rinsing.

You need to let your child know at a young age that they have no choice when tending to their oral care. If this means that you continue brushing and flossing their teeth until they reach a more mature age where they take their oral care seriously, than might have to be your recourse. Failing to take care of a child’s teeth at a young age can cause a number of serious long-term health problems. Since most children have trouble thinking five minutes ahead, never mind five years, you might have a hard time selling your child on the importance of brushing and flossing. However, even if you child make tending to his oral hygiene inconvenient, just remember that whatever hassle you endure is worth it in the end.