The Importance of Oral Hygiene in Children
What is the happiest sight for a parent when they come back home tired after a long day’s work or return to their home-country on a vacation? The heart-melting, delightful and innocent smile of our little ones is the one thing that brightens up our lives no matter what.
Well, if their smiles mean so much then isn’t it worth the while to take out a little bit of our time and think about their oral hygiene? The earlier we as parents incorporate good oral hygiene as a part of the child’s dental routine, the healthier the child’s teeth will be. Whether it is a baby or a young child, there is always something that we can do to ensure that their pearly little teeth and gums remain healthy throughout their lives.
Good oral hygiene has many enemies!
1. The biggest cause of worry is tooth decay. Bacterial in nature, it can damage the enamel, progressing to tooth loss and causing great discomfort in little ones. Sugary or starchy foods such as sweets, candies, juices and savoury snacks eaten in between meals can accelerate the onset of tooth decay due to plaque formation. Decay causing bacteria need this unhealthy plaque to survive and thrive, as they slowly begin eroding the enamel of the teeth. Even babies develop tooth decay if good feeding habits are not followed.
2. A bottle or a sippy-cup filled with deliciously flavoured milk or juices always seems like a good quick-fix solution for our little ones when he or she is growing up – especially when we know that it will help comfort or soothe them. However, the sugar from these drinks remains behind on the teeth and if good dental hygiene is not followed then this practice can also contribute to damaging the teeth of your young one by initiating the onset of teeth decay.
3. Thumb-sucking is a rather annoying habit that children develop early during their growing years. This bad habit can prove expensive as it can result in the gradual misalignment of teeth which may lead to expensive orthodontic treatments, which are otherwise completely avoidable.
4. The unsanitary habit of nail-biting is common among little ones, whether owing to stress or otherwise. This habit exposes their teeth to the further spread of bacteria and germs via the mouth, apart from misaligning the teeth. In fact, if your child wears braces, biting nails can stress the teeth even more affecting the orthodontic procedure and the overall bite of your child’s teeth.
5. A seemingly harmless habit that is swallowing toothpaste, in fact, has a negative impact on the dental health of little ones. The fluoride present in many toothpastes can cause discolouration due to fluorosis when swallowed.
6. Last but not the least, skipping your annual dental visit means a missed opportunity for your child to learn more about good dental hygiene.
Here are some great steps that, if implemented early in your child’s life, can ensure that those pearly whites remain in the pink of their health:
1. Even before a baby begins teething, wiping down the gums with a gauze or a soft but wet washcloth can be a great step towards beginning proper dental hygiene.
2. Choosing the right brush with the appropriate head size and soft bristles specifically designed for babies or children is the next step.
3. Checking with our dentist for the right kind of toothpaste for our child can help ensure great dental health.
4. Parents should strictly monitor their child’s eating habits and ensure that foods rich in sugar and starch are avoided, especially between meals. Treats can be given during meals as saliva produced during digestion helps get rid of decay-causing bacteria. Brushing your child’s teeth or rinsing after feasting on such food can wash away the harmful organisms. This should be applicable to liquid medicines that have been sweetened to improve taste for pediatric patients.
5. Making sure your child does not sleep while nursing or with a sippy cup full of sweetened drinks without the necessary dental hygiene intervention can be a great way to prevent decaying teeth. Using a pacifier or a bottle filled with water rather than sugary drinks is a suitable alternative when your little one is teething.
6. Discouraging thumb-sucking in little ones can help in the early prevention of various orthodontic problems. Regularly trimming your child’s nails can not only prevent dirt from entering but also eventually help your child break his/her habit of biting their nails.
7. In conclusion, it is a sure-shot temptation to avoid seeing the dentist when your child’s teeth look fine. The dentist can help you identify any possible problems lurking around the corner and ensure the removal of plaque or food debris that may have remained behind. During these important visits, the dentist can educate parents and your little one about good dental health.
Talk to your dentist today about the application of topical fluoride or dental sealants to strengthen your children’s teeth or for preventing food particles from nesting in the tiny gaps in your child’s teeth where the toothbrush cannot reach. So, start early and start now, and keep your child’s teeth smiling bright, always!
To learn more about how you can take better care of your child’s oral hygiene, reach out to:
Dr. Aarthy Viswanathan