Teaching Children The Importance Of Good Oral Hygiene
As parents, there are so many things that continually run through our heads that we know we need to teach our children. We want to teach them the importance of being nice to others, show them how to share and be fair, and encourage them to eat healthy. We make it a priority to teach them not to run out into the street, to not talk to strangers and to cover their mouths when they cough. One thing that may never really run through our minds as parents, however, is the importance of teaching our children the practice of good oral hygiene.
Sure, we probably through our actions give them some indication that brushing teeth or not eating too many sweets are a necessary part of our daily routines so that we have healthy and strong teeth, but chances are that we don’t give much more thought than that to how important it is to care for our mouths. But we should.
Proper oral hygiene is important for a number of reasons, among them are:
Cavity free teeth – teeth are more likely to be free from decay and therefore cavities if we maintain a proper cleaning regimen. This includes daily brushing and flossing after meals and before bedtime, as well as regular trips to the dentist. Preventative visits are typically recommended twice a year once children’s permanent teeth have erupted, although a minimum of annual visits should be initiated by a child’s first birthday.
Healthy gums – even more important than keeping our teeth clean is keeping our gums healthy. Our gums are the tissue that hold our teeth in place and prevent exposure to the roots and nerves of our teeth and jaw. If gums become diseased, it can set us up for a host of problems throughout our lifetime.
Good smelling breath – kids may laugh about things like bad breath, but the fact is that bad breath is no laughing matter. Sure, our breath may smell less than stellar after we’ve downed a greasy meal loaded with garlic and onions, but continual bad breath may be a sign of unhealthy teeth and gums or more serious underlying medical issues.
Overall good health – a number of studies over the years have linked poor oral hygiene to the higher likelihood of other more serious health conditions. Issues like heart disease, diabetes and cancer may be linked to what goes on in our mouths, so maintaining excellent oral hygiene and being diligent about noticing any changes to our oral health may be critical to our overall good health.
So, what is it that’s important that we teach our kids from a very young age when it comes to taking care of their teeth, gums and overall oral health?
Brush often – teeth should be brushed at least twice a day (morning and night), but preferably also after every meal. If a regular brushing can’t be done after meals, at least rinse the mouth with some water to dislodge debris and remove sugars from tooth surfaces.
Flossing is important, too – not only do you need to brush your teeth each day, but you also need to floss. This is important to remove any particles, debris or bacteria that get stuck between teeth. Many people slack on this aspect of oral hygiene, especially kids, but it is important to teach kids from an early age that flossing should not be ignored.
Bye, bye bottle – if you have a young child that is still attached to a bottle, it’s time to do all you can to encourage them to say goodbye to this potential cavity creator. Children should be weaned completely from a bottle by 12 – 14 months of age, because when bottles are used to drink rather than cups, it bathes the teeth continuously in milk or juice and that can lead to dental caries and decay.
Skip the sticky stuff – sweet, sticky and gooey treats wreak the most havoc with our kids’ teeth, so rather than letting them chew taffy, lick a lollipop or gobble up a sticky treat, let them have something sweet that won’t linger on their teeth.
Limit snacking – the more often we eat, the more our teeth and gums come in contact with sugars and bacteria that can potentially harm our teeth, so it’s best to avoid a routine of constant snacking and stick to eating only at specific times of the day.
The dentist is your friend – there’s no reason for kids to be scared of the dentist like many adults today were when they were kids. Dental procedures are now performed to be virtually pain free and getting your child to the dentist at an early age will help them learn to see the dentist as someone that they can feel comfortable with rather than someone they fear.