It’s truly a challenging responsibility to raise a kid. That is why you can see lots of books on proper parenting throughout a child’s developing years as the child changes behaviour. But how about oral health education? Learning the do’s and don’ts on how to take good care of your child’s teeth is as important as other parts of child rearing, especially in preventing dental disease.
Below is a guide to help you promote oral health education from birth to adulthood.
From Birth to Kindergarten (0 – 5 Years)
Despite the absence of visible teeth, the American Dental Association suggests cleaning the baby’s gums after every feeding using a clean cloth or a moist gauze pad. The first teeth usually appear around the sixth month, and they are vulnerable to tooth decay so regular cleaning is very important. Additionally, refrain from placing your baby on bed with milk to prevent a more serious case of baby bottle tooth decay. A simple bottle of water will do.
You can eventually clean your child’s baby teeth using a baby-size toothbrush using a non-flouride toothpaste or simply water. At the age of two, you can put a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Also, start flossing your baby’s teeth when there’s two or more teeth.
The baby teeth is composed of 20 teeth that will erupt between six months and three years. Soon, you’ll learn some tricks on how to pacify the fussiness because of teething. Remember that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns the use of topical liquids or gels that contain benzocaine as this can cause adverse effects to kids younger than two years.
Schedule your child’s first dental visit on his/her first birthday. This is the best time to talk about teething, fluoride recommendation, thumb-sucking and other home care concerns with your pediatric dentist.
Elementary Years (6 – 12 Years)
Kids start to shed their baby teeth by age five or six, when their permanent teeth begin to erupt. Permanent teeth must be complete by age 12 or 13. Keep in mind that children are usually not coordinated enough to floss or brush on their own until they reach 10.
Keep your fridge full of healthy, less sugary choices such as fresh fruits, yogurt, cheeses, chocolate milk, peanut butter and veggies. Your child must be visiting his/her dentist regularly for cleanings and checkups. This is the time the dentist will monitor your child’s teeth alignment and may advice fluoride treatments and dental sealants to prevent decay. The pediatric dentist will also teach your child the basic steps of proper flossing and brushing.
Teen Years (13 – 17 Years)
This is the time when you expect all the good rituals on good oral hygiene that you have been teaching to stick. But still, continue with the reminders on flossing and brushing. Young teens can get lax on their dental hygiene. They should also limit their intake of soft drinks and sugary snacks. If your child is wearing braces, he may be frustrated with the difficulties on brushing and flossing, including the diet restrictions. Explain how attractive that smile will be when the braces are removed.
College to Adulthood
Because of your patience and diligence, your child will be studying college with attractive, healthy teeth. But before going, schedule a dental appointment for thorough examination and cleaning. It is around this time when the wisdom tooth erupt and if there isn’t enough space, your dentist may advice they be removed. Schedule this procedure during a holiday break or before he leaves for college.
Oral health education is not only important to parenting, but a rewarding part of the journey. You’ll reap the benefits every time you see your child’s healthy teeth and attractive smile.