According to data from the National Institutes of Health, about half of all kids under age 11 have at least one cavity. The CDC says cavities are “one of the most common chronic diseases of childhood” for American kids. That sounds grim, but the good news is, there are some critical things you can do now to help your child enjoy better oral health — not just during childhood, but throughout their adult years, too.
Good oral hygiene requires a combination of professional care and at-home routines. The right mix can keep cavities at bay and help your child enjoy a lifetime of beautiful, healthy smiles.
In honor of National Children's Dental Health Month, Harbor Community Health Centers is providing this quick list of tips to parents in San Pedro, California, to help them learn what they can do to give their child a healthier future. Here’s how we can work together to give your child better oral health.
As far as professional care is concerned, ensuring your child sees the dentist regularly — that means once or twice every year — is vital. Childhood is a time of significant changes in growth and development. Even though you may not see them, your child’s adult teeth are forming below the gums. The care your child receives now can impact their oral health for the rest of their lives.
Regular checkups and routine dental care give your child’s dentist a chance to evaluate your child’s teeth and jaws so that they can diagnose potential problems early. Early diagnosis means your child may be able to have treatment to help them avoid more serious (and costly) issues later.
During routine checkups, we’ll also evaluate your child’s brushing and flossing techniques, helping them fine-tune their efforts to provide greater protection against decay and disease. And, of course, we’ll provide restorative care to treat cavities that could be causing pain or interfering with eating or socializing.
Fluoride treatments and dental sealants
Dental checkups are also a time for preventive treatments, like fluoride treatments and dental sealants. Fluoride is a naturally-occurring mineral that helps teeth stay healthy so they can fight off bacteria that cause decay. Sealants provide a protective barrier for the chewing surfaces of teeth, where bacteria are more likely to hide. Together, sealants and fluoride treatments provide your child’s teeth with essential protection that can decrease cavities, breakage, and other painful problems.
Proper brushing and flossing
At home, brushing and flossing form the cornerstones for good oral health. You should start brushing your child’s teeth as soon as they emerge — before they’re even a year old. As your child grows, you can teach them how to take over brushing and flossing duties as you look on to make sure they’re using the right techniques.
Letting them choose their toothbrush can be an excellent way to get your child motivated to brush the way they’re supposed to. When choosing toothpaste or mouth rinses, look for products with the ADA Seal of Approval, an indicator that the American Dental Association backs the products your child is using.
Sugary snacks taste good — to your child and to the bacteria that cause cavities. To prevent tooth decay, limit sugar intake and opt for healthier choices, like fruit or celery with peanut butter. Cheese and other dairy products are perfect because they contain calcium and phosphates that can help strengthen your child’s tooth enamel.
Baby teeth need care, too
Many parents mistakenly think that because they “fall out,” baby teeth don’t need regular checkups and other dental care. But the health of your child’s baby teeth can have a direct bearing on the adult teeth forming in the gums below them. Plus, cavities in baby teeth can still cause pain, making it hard to eat and focus in school.
Good habits that last a lifetime
Giving your child a good grounding in oral health care is the most important thing you can to help them avoid dental issues later in life. To schedule a checkup for your child, call Harbor Community Health Centers or use our online form to request an office visit today.