From Infancy to Maturity: How Your Family Can Foster Good Oral Health at Every Age: Part 1
Protecting Your Teeth from Infancy and Beyond
It’s a common belief in today’s world that as we grow older, our teeth eventually get bad and fall out, leaving us with the burdensome process of getting replacements. But that doesn’t have to be the case. While it may seem natural for our teeth to decay, erode, and fall out with age, the health of our teeth actually depends on how well we’re able to care for them from early on in our lives. The better we care for our teeth, the longer they’ll stick around.
Best believe that investing in your teeth from infancy to childhood and all the way through adulthood won’t only extend their lifespan, but will also keep you healthier throughout the years. So if you were hoping to foster good oral health at every age, consider these tips for the younger generations in your family.
Avoid putting your baby to sleep with a bottle in their mouth.
If allowed to sleep with either a baby bottle or their mother’s breast in their mouth, a baby’s teeth can become soaked in milk for extended hours, causing rot and decay. To foster good oral health, always remove the bottle or breast when your baby falls asleep, even if they don’t have teeth yet. Starting this habit now can make it easier to keep it up once the primary teeth erupt at around 6 months of age.
Clean your baby’s teeth as soon as they appear.
The idea that a baby’s teeth aren’t important is a common misconception. Baby teeth are vital for proper spacing, ensuring that permanent teeth erupt where they should. If a baby’s teeth are allowed to rot, decay, and become riddled with cavities, they can fall out too soon and cause permanent teeth to be crooked and misaligned, leading to malocclusion.
As soon as your baby’s teeth show up, practice good oral hygiene by wiping them with a clean cloth and low-fluoride baby toothpaste. Clean all the surfaces, including the gums, twice daily and wipe them clean after feeding.
Steer clear of pacifiers and soothers.
Dentists and doctors recommend that parents keep their babies from pacifiers and soothers because they can interfere with alignment. And unfortunately, alignment problems with primary teeth can lead to the same issues when permanent teeth erupt. Wean your child off of a pacifier, train them to stop thumb sucking, and prevent any behavior that could have similar repercussions.
Transition your child to a cup early on.
Babies who bottle feed for too long are more prone to decay and cavities. As soon as your child shows the motor and cognitive skills needed for drinking from a cup, curb the bottle and train them to drink all of their beverages from a cup instead. This includes formula milk or expressed breast milk.
Put a cap on sugar intake.
Cavities are probably the biggest problem faced by young children because children’s taste buds are inclined to have a preference for sweet food. So they’ll often gobble it down voraciously, potentially damaging their teeth in the process.
Avoid stocking sweet treats at home to limit your kids’ access to cavity-causing food. Offer healthier options, like fresh fruit and sugar-free alternatives, instead to limit their teeth’s exposure to sweets.
Get started on healthy oral care habits.
Starting your children on proper oral care practices helps them adapt these habits well into their older years. Teach them how to properly brush their teeth, and supervise their brushing to make sure they’re doing it properly and on time. It also helps to bring them to the dentist’s clinic on a routine schedule. Kids should have a dental checkup at least every 6 months to prevent any potential dental problems.
Keep an eye on their diet.
It’s easy for teens to overlook their diet, especially when they’re inclined to eat junk food, like pizza, fast food, instant noodles, soda, and chips. Unfortunately, these food choices do nothing for dental health and may even limit the available vitamins and nutrients necessary for optimal oral health.
Keep an eye on their diet, and make sure they’re eating well-balanced meals. Choose natural foods that are rich in Vitamins A and D, calcium, phosphorous, and magnesium to support dental health. If you want to make doubly sure they’re getting the vitamins and minerals they need, you can put them on a supplement or multivitamin to make sure they’re meeting their daily needs.
Provide guidance for brushing with orthodontics.
Braces can make it extra challenging to clean teeth, so make sure you give your teen the proper guidance. Buy the right brushing tools, leave them reminders for brushing schedules, and have your teen sit with their dentist to discuss the proper brushing technique for cleaning around orthodontics. If they’re using retainers, make sure they use them for the prescribed amount of time to avoid compromising the result of their orthodontic treatment.
Discuss the risks of pressured choices.
The teen years can be pretty confusing, and teenagers often have to deal with lots of different influences and pressures. Typically, the pressure to fit in will coerce them into bad habits like smoking, which can be detrimental to their oral health. Mouth piercings can also be problematic since they risk damage to the teeth and increase the chances of infection.
Having an open relationship with your child should help them feel more comfortable talking about the pressures that might cause them to adopt bad behaviors and habits and consequently foster good oral health. So take the time to sit down and listen to what they say. Explain the risks of certain choices, or take them to their dentist to give them a better idea of the long-term effects of these often fleeting decisions.