Most babies get their teeth in the first 6 to 12 months of their life. These are baby teeth that will eventually fall out and be replaced by permanent teeth. This process usually starts around their sixth birthday. However, this does not mean that you can neglect your child’s oral health in his/her early years.
Poor dental health can cause dental issues such as cavities, bad breath, tongue thrusting, thumb sucking, and early tooth loss. Poor oral hygiene in a child’s early years can even cause problems with permanent teeth and can lead to more dental problems in the future. Thus, parents must inculcate a good oral hygiene routine as early as possible.
Oral health problems in children
Some of the common oral health issues that may arise from poor daily dental care include:
Children tend to eat sugar in the form of candies and chocolates, packaged juices and soft drinks. Bacteria in the mouth feed on these sugars and increase the risk of developing cavities. Cavities weaken the tooth enamel and if left unaddressed for long enough, can even affect the root of the teeth.
- Thumb sucking
To a certain degree, thumb sucking is a normal habit. Sucking their thumbs and pacifiers gives infants a sense of comfort and emotional security but in the long run, it can cause damage to permanent teeth. Depending on how often and how long children suck their thumb, permanent teeth can become misaligned and appear protruded. It can also cause an overbite. This may also make it difficult for your child to pronounce certain words.
- Early tooth loss
Early loss of teeth can be the result of an injury and tooth decay. This early loss of teeth can make the location of the permanent teeth shift and reduce the space available for the emergence of permanent teeth. The new teeth may also come out crooked. This can cause problems with speech development and make it harder for them to chew food properly. It may also cause temporomandibular joint problems.
How to take care of teeth and gums at home
It is never too early to learn how to take good care of your teeth. Good oral hygiene begins at home. Parents need to start paying attention to their infant’s dental health even before their baby teeth emerge. Here are a few tips for healthy teeth and gums.
- Insist on having your children follow oral hygiene instructions
Children should be taught to brush their teeth every morning and every night. They should also be taught to rinse their mouth after every meal. Children can be taught to floss their teeth as soon as they have at least 2 teeth that touch each other.
- Cut back on sugar
Junk food, sweets and packaged drinks are packed with added sugar. This is the leading cause of cavities. Thus, it is essential for parents to reduce the amount of sugar their children eat. Replace junk food with healthy home-made snacks. This way, you can control the amount of sugar your child eats.
- Regular dental checks
Your child needs regular dental check-ups. The first of these check-ups should begin before a child’s first birthday. Children should go for regular dental check-ups at least once a year after this. Regular dental checks can go a long way in helping children overcome their fear of dentists and help identify problems while they are still in their early stages.
- Ditch the pacifier
In the first 2 years, sucking a pacifier can offer emotional support and comfort. However, it is important for children to ditch the pacifier by the second year. You could dip the pacifier in bitter juice (like aloevera) to make your child eschew it.
Crunchy foods like apples, carrots and celery are good for dental health as they scrub the plaque off teeth. Similarly, green leafy vegetables and broccoli are rich in vitamins and minerals that are essential for healthy enamel. The minerals in nuts and seeds also help replenish the minerals in tooth enamel and thus strengthen them. To keep teeth healthy naturally, it is also important to teach your children what foods should be avoided. These include candy, chewable toffees, breads, chips and other types of junk foods.