We see many cases where children have not been taught, or are not taking part in proper oral health and hygiene practices. Whilst children may not like brushing their teeth or taking part in practices that contribute to oral health, there are some important messages you should be sharing with your children regularly. Great oral health habits developed from an early age help prevent dental problems (and big dentist bills) in adults.
As we know, baby teeth fall out, but they are just as important as adult teeth and they help children to talk, eat and smile, so it pays to take care of them!
The main messages associated with oral health that are important to impart onto children can fit into three main categories- brushing / cleaning, drinking and eating.
Brushing and cleaning teeth for children’s oral health
Everyone should brush their teeth twice per day, once after breakfast and once before bed. For children it is important that they are taught to brush along their gum line and use low-fluoride toothpaste from the age of 18 months until around 6 years. If you notice a problem with your child’s teeth make sure you book in to see a dentist as soon as possible, and all children should see a dentist by age two for their first check up.
Teach children the correct technique for brushing teeth which means moving the brush in small circles over each tooth at the front and backwards and forwards for the back teeth. This should be repeated on the inside surfaces of teeth also.
Drinks and oral health in children
Ensuring your children consume healthy drinks is vital for oral health. Make sure you limit sometimes drinks like soft drinks, fruit juices, fruit drinks, energy drinks and cordial with tap water being the preferred drink for children (and adults!)
Tap water is a preference because most households have access to fluoridated water, but if necessary bottled water is a better option than fizzy carbonated drinks.
Milk is also a great alternative as it provides vitamins and nutrients, but always go for plain milk because flavoured milks are loaded with added sugar which is linked to tooth decay.
Eating and oral health in children
A standard for good health, and not just oral health, is to enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods and limit foods containing sugar.
Parents often find it hard to get their children to eat healthy food because children don’t like the tastes and textures of fruits and vegetables. Yet, filling your children up on high sugar foods like muesli bars, chocolates, lollies, jams, ice creams, biscuits and slices is not only harmful to their teeth but also increases their chances of obesity and chronic health outcomes in later life.
There are a range of resources available online and through community health services, GPs and Government agencies which can greatly assist you in ensuring your children are eating healthy foods.
As hard as it can be for parents to ensure their children maintain these practices, it is important to always remember what a big investment oral health is for your child’s future. When the going gets tough, just imagine the dental bills and unattractive smiles the future may hold without appropriate dental hygiene today.