Giving Your Child a Healthy Smile That Lasts a Lifetime

by | Feb 14, 2024 | Children's Oral Health | 0 comments

Some parents seem to think that dental problems are inevitable. Cavities? Just a regular part of growing up. Orthodontics to straighten crowded, crooked teeth? Practically a rite of passage.

But such problems are hardly unavoidable. Establish healthy dental habits early, and you set your child on a path to enjoy a lifetime of good oral health – something that’s essential for sustaining good whole body health, as well.

So in the spirit of National Children’s Dental Health Month, here are 7 tips to help safeguard your child’s oral health for decades to come:

  1. Breastfeed exclusively for at least the first 6 months of life if possible. Not only is it the best nutrition for an infant; the physical action of suckling encourages the proper development of the dental arches, with plenty of room for the teeth to grow in straight and strong. Extended breastfeeding also helps avoid “bottle mouth,” a type of decay caused by prolonged exposure to sugars through habits such as sleeping with a bottle of juice or milk, or toting one to drink from through the day.
  2. Serve minimally processed whole foods and limit sugary treats. A diet centered on vegetables, fruits, proteins, and healthy fats creates an oral environment less hospitable to the bacteria that erode enamel and cause cavities. Skip the refined carbs (e.g., crackers, chips, pasta, etc.) and added sugars as much as possible (yes, even the “natural” ones such as honey, agave, and molasses).
  3. Have your child sip plain, fluoride-free water between meals and snacks. Constant snacking allows mouth acids and bacteria to feast on food particles left on and between teeth. Sipping water washes away these remnants and restores a clean slate. Drinking water also helps with saliva production. Saliva plays several roles in oral health, including being the way minerals get delivered to the teeth to help keep their enamel strong.
  4. Help your child brush properly twice a day with fluoride-free toothpaste and floss once a day. While frequency prevents plaque buildup and decay, technique is just as important! At first, you will need to do the brushing and flossing for them. (These videos will show you how.) As their fine motor skills develop, they can transition to doing the cleaning themselves – first with your supervision, then ultimately on their own.
  5. Schedule visits with your biological dentist every 6 months. Early screening and preventative care allow us to catch any emerging issues while they’re still minor. This saves you both time and money, and reduces the chance of your child needing invasive treatments (like getting fillings) later.
  6. Address any emerging bite or jaw alignment concerns promptly. Misaligned bites place uneven mechanical stress on jaw joints and teeth, raising chances of chips, cracks, fractures, or abnormal wear over time. Early intervention with palatal expanders often helps.
  7. Wean your child from pacifiers before age 2. Prolonged pacifier habits alter the shape of the developing mouth, possibly resulting in bite problems. The same goes for thumb and finger sucking, and other parafunctional habits. (Parafunctional habits are repetitive behaviors other than normal eating or chewing that involve the oral structures.)

Equipping your child with robust oral hygiene habits from the start prepares them to avoid extensive dental procedures down the road. Small daily measures like these all work synergistically to support healthy teeth and properly aligned smiles well into adulthood!

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