7 Ways To Help Your Child's Teeth Stay Healthy
Many parents have little or no idea that childhood tooth decay is the leading chronic childhood illness. Left untreated, it can lead to serious bacterial infections, malnourishment, and difficulties in eating or speaking due to the significant amount of pain that it causes children who suffer from it. Pediatric dental disease has also been linked to adult health conditions such as heart disease, dementia, and diabetes. It is estimated that as many as 17 million U.S. children go without proper dental care each year. Fortunately, there are plenty of preventative measures that parents can take to decrease the chances that their children will suffer from childhood tooth decay. Following are seven ways that you can help establish your child's good dental health.
Breast milk has the capacity to slow the development of acids that can lead to tooth decay in children, and it also inhibits bacterial growth. Many parents still erroneously believe that because the first teeth have not yet grown in that they are not affected by food and beverage choices, but that is not the case. These teeth are right under the surface inside of the gums, and they can be significantly damaged by exposure to too much sugar. Although breast milk contains natural sugars, it doesn't have nearly the amount found in other beverages.
Clean Your Child's Teeth Often
Until your child is old enough to begin a brushing regime, clean the interior of his or her mouth using a clean, soft cotton cloth or a piece of gauze after eating or drinking. This will remove plaque and any residual liquids or food debris.
Don't Put Sweet Drinks In Bottles
Bottles can be terrible for childrens' teeth because they cause liquid to be in constant contact with the gums and teeth. Sweet drinks such as punch or soda should never be put into bottles -- in fact, you should avoid giving them to your child altogether. If you decide to allow your child to have these beverages, put them in a cup and always clean your child's teeth after they are consumed.
Limit Fruit Juice
Although fruit juice does not contain as much sugar as punch or soft drinks, it nonetheless contains significant amounts. Limiting your child to six ounces of fruit juice per day will help to keep his or her gums and emerging teeth healthy. Only give fruit juice with meals, and be sure to clean your child's teeth when the meal is over.
Don't Give Milk Or Juice Bottles In Bed
Giving your child a milk or juice bottle in bed to help him or her fall asleep will result in the teeth and gums being overexposed to the sugars that both of these liquids contain. If having something to suck on calms your baby and helps sleep come more quickly, provide a bottle of plain water instead, and make certain to remove it as soon as the child falls fast asleep.
Although it can be tempting to provide a child with a pacifier in order to calm fussy behavior, pacifiers should be used sparingly, and they should never be dipped in honey, sugar, or any other sweet substance. Prolonged pacifier use can also cause problems with the alignment of the child's teeth and can even change the shape of the child's mouth.
Make Dental Health A Priority In Your Home
As soon as your child has teeth, make certain that your child understands the importance of taking good care of them. Establish morning, noon, and nighttime brushing rituals as soon as your child has the necessary motor skills to begin brushing his or her own teeth -- usually around age two. Begin flossing at age two-and-a-half or three when the child's primary teeth have all grown in.
For more information, contact a dental specialist like Dentistry For Children & Adolescents.