Teaching your child proper oral hygiene at a young age is an important part of ensuring their long-term health. If left untreated, dental disease can cause a number of other problems such as diabetes, pneumonia, heart disease and increased risk of stroke. According to the American Academy of Paediatric Dentistry, tooth decay is now the most common chronic childhood condition and is five times more common than asthma. As well as putting your child’s physical health at risk, poor oral hygiene can impact their psychological development by causing pain, poor nutrition and lowering their self-esteem.
The Prevalence of Childhood Dental Disease
Children begin teething at around six months of age and usually have a full set of primary teeth at around three years old. Primary teeth, or milk teeth, consist of 20 small teeth that act as space savers for the 32 adult teeth that will eventually begin growing once your child reaches six years old. As children will eventually shed these primary teeth, many parents fail to take proper care of their child’s first teeth which has led to a sharp increase in the number of children suffering from tooth decay. In the US, more than 25% of children under the age of five suffer from tooth decay, and this number increases to 50% for those under 15. Failing to take proper care of the teeth and limited access to effective dental care have been highlighted as the main reasons for the increase in childhood dental disease.
Teaching Good Oral Hygiene from a Young Age
A child’s primary teeth have a huge impact on the overall health of their permanent adult teeth. The primary teeth are mainly responsible for making space in the mouth for the larger teeth to grow into. If one or more of the primary teeth are removed due to disease, then the adult teeth have a much greater chance of growing in crooked. Decay in the primary teeth can also affect the healthy adult teeth waiting to come in below the gum line. To prevent tooth decay in children, it is advisable to start good oral hygiene from birth. After each feeding, clean your baby’s gums using a soft washcloth or baby toothbrush. After their first tooth appears, you can begin brushing their teeth with a toothbrush and fluoride-free toothpaste. You should take your child to their first dental appointment before they reach their first birthday and ensure they attend regular check-ups thereafter.
Teaching your child to brush their own teeth doesn’t have to be a difficult task as most children automatically copy their parent’s actions. Start brushing your teeth together in the morning and before bed to get them into a familiar habit. Always double check that your child reaches all of their teeth with the brush to completely remove trapped food and bacteria. It is also advisable to limit the amount of sugar your child consumes. Your dentist can provide you with support and advice on how to properly care for your child’s teeth as well as child-friendly toothbrushes and toothpaste.