Oral health is crucial, especially for children. According to research from Pew Charitable Trusts, tooth decay is the most widespread chronic disease among American children. It’s about five times more common than asthma. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also found that kids aged five to eleven years have at least one untreated cavity.
What Poor Oral Health Does
When the mouth isn’t in good condition, the rest of the body gets sick, too. When someone with gum disease or tooth decay lets their condition go untreated, the bacteria can seep into the bloodstream and lead to a variety of dangerous diseases like endocarditis, or an infection of the inner lining of the heart. Another way that oral health issues can cause disease is when one inhales the bacteria through their mouth. This can lead to inhaled pneumonia and other lung infections.
The good news is that oral health problems are completely preventable. Brushing one’s teeth at least twice a day, drinking plenty of water that contains fluoride, and frequent checkups with the dentist can keep these conditions at bay. However, children are quite difficult to convince when it comes to developing proper dental hygiene, as with other health-related habits like eating vegetables and sleeping early.
What can you do to help your child learn the importance of oral health?
Show Them the Truth
There are a variety of consequences for poor oral hygiene. Explain or show them to your kid in a way that’ll make them comfortable and allow them to easily understand.
Use simple and non-threatening language while teaching them about the effects of cavities, gum disease, like teeth permanently falling out or bad breath. Tell them that the only way to prevent these problems is by simply brushing their teeth at least twice a day.
Be a Good Role Model
Kids tend to learn a lot by copying people they look up to, especially during the early stages of their childhood. This is called modeling behavior hand it can create a permanent effect on their habits as they grow up. Apart from teaching them how to brush their teeth, do it with them every morning and night. Make sure they see you brush and floss your teeth properly and that they’re doing the same.
Choose the Right Dentist
Every licensed dentist can provide proper dental care for adults. However, not all of them can work with kids properly. Make sure you’re taking your kid to a pediatric dentist because they will have the experience and training to handle young patients. These specialists spend two years of residency training in administering oral health treatment to infants, kids, and teenagers. They know the best ways to keep your child relaxed during checkups and treatment and provide dental health advice your kids will definitely consider.
It’s important to take your child to the dentist regularly, starting from their first birthday. This way, they can spot and treat potential issues, like tooth decay or mild infections, before they worsen. Getting your kid familiar and comfortable in a dentist’s clinic is a huge plus, too.
Make the Activity Fun
If your kid isn’t as keen on copying your habits, you could try to make the mundane habit of brushing teeth fun. One way to do this is to brush to their favorite song or a catchy tune. Brushing for two minutes is enough to protect their teeth, as long as they did it correctly.
You could also make a game out of oral hygiene. You could tell your kid that sugar critters can make their way into their mouths. And the only way to get rid of these critters is to brush the different areas of their teeth for a few seconds. You could also have them play this great “Sesame Street” game about tooth brushing. It makes brushing look like a fun activity that may engage your child.
If your kid responds well to rewards, give them one every time they brush their teeth. Sugary treats are out of the picture, for sure. You could create a system that gives them a point every time they brush their teeth at the right time. Once they complete the necessary amount, give them a reward like a trip to their favorite amusement park or the toy, book, or video game they’ve always wanted.
With all the sugary treats and processed food that goes into human diets, it’s no surprise that children are vulnerable to oral health issues like tooth decay. Fortunately, such problems can be treated, or even avoided, with proper dental health practices. These suggestions help your child realize that brushing and flossing are important (or even fun) activities that they should do regularly.