February is Children’s Dental Health Month! Although it may seem like your child’s primary teeth aren’t a big deal, the truth is that they play several important roles in the health of the adult teeth waiting to emerge.
Your child’s baby teeth help guide permanent teeth into their proper positions. Keeping your little one’s baby teeth healthy can actually help encourage the health of their adult teeth, as bacteria from tooth decay have the potential to affect permanent teeth even before they emerge through the gum tissue.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 20% of children ages 5-11 have at least one untreated cavity. Poor oral health, as well as a diet lacking in nutrients or a diet high in added sugar, are both contributing to factors to children experiencing tooth decay at a young age.
In light of Children’s Dental Health Month, let’s talk about a few common mistakes that parents make with their children’s oral care.
- Letting Your Child Consume Too Much Sugar
Added sugar—meaning any sugar that’s added to a product and not sugar that naturally exists in a food, such as fruit—can wreak havoc on your child’s teeth. The oral bacteria that metabolize sugar in the mouth produce acids in the process, which can attack tooth enamel, weakening it and increasing your child’s risk for cavities.
The problem with added sugar is that it’s hiding in most processed foods, even in foods marketed to be healthy, such as gummy vitamins, sports drinks, juice, and granola bars. When feeding your child packaged foods, always check the label to assess the sugar content!
When it comes to letting your child consume added sugar, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than six teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar for children age two and older per day. For children younger than two, it’s recommended to avoid added sugar completely.
2. Skipping Dental Visits
Dental visits may not seem important for your child, but the truth is that your dentist in Asheville helps keep your child on track for proper oral health and development. Regular exams give your dentist a chance to identify any cavities or other oral health problems before they need more intensive treatment.
Your child should have their first dental visit around their first birthday. Unfortunately, children are at risk for tooth decay as soon as they have teeth, so keeping your regular appointments can ensure your child’s teeth are strong, pain-free, and developing properly for a beautiful and healthy smile.
3. Using Too Much Toothpaste
Children are more at risk to swallow toothpaste than adults are, which makes using the right amount of toothpaste important. Fluoride is a beneficial mineral that can help protect your child’s teeth against tooth decay, so using fluoride toothpaste when brushing your child’s teeth is a must.
However, for children younger than two, you only need a smear of toothpaste to brush their teeth. For size reference, this is about the size of a grain of rice. For children older than two, you can use a little more toothpaste. Children age four and up can use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste when brushing their teeth.
4. Not Supervising Brushing
Supervising your child’s brushing habits is important until you can be sure your child is capable of cleaning their teeth properly on their own. For most children, supervised brushing and flossing are recommended until around age seven. A good point of reference is when your child can tie their own shoes—at this point, they should have the skills necessary to brush and floss their own teeth.
If your child is having a hard time getting motivated to brush their teeth, check out these seven ways you can get kids to commit to a regular routine of brushing their teeth for a healthy smile and smart oral care habits for life!
5. Skipping Flossing
Flossing is an essential step in your child’s oral care routine because it helps remove food from in between the teeth—these are places that your child’s toothbrush can’t reach. You should be flossing your child’s teeth daily as soon as they have two teeth that touch together.
As your child gets older, you can teach them how to floss their teeth on their own. Skipping flossing can lead to plaque and bacteria that build up in between the teeth, which can increase your child’s risk for both tooth decay and gum disease. Flossing once a day can help keep cavities away!
6. Missing That First Orthodontist Visit
Not every child will need orthodontic treatment, but for those that do, an early start can shorten treatment time in many cases. Early orthodontic treatment can also help reduce the amount of treatment needed, resulting in a more comfortable experience for your child.
Your child should have a consultation with an orthodontist around age seven, which gives your orthodontist time to identify any potential issues before all your child’s adult teeth come in. If you need a referral to an orthodontist, your Asheville dentist can give you one when your child comes in for their regular appointment!
7. Not Getting a Mouthguard for Sports
If your child is playing any type of contact sport, such as football, lacrosse, soccer, or hockey, they’ll need mouthguard to fully protect their teeth during practice and games. A custom mouthguard ensures a perfect fit and better protection for your child than store-bought mouthguards, which can often be too bulky and uncomfortable for children.
Passing on a mouthguard for sports exposes your child’s smile to the potential for trauma such as cut gum tissue, knocked-out teeth, and broken teeth that can not only be painful for your child, but in some cases, challenging to treat depending on the circumstances.
We Provide Pediatric Dentistry Services!
At Saunders DDS, we provide pediatric dentistry services so your child can grow up with a healthy and beautiful smile. New to the Asheville area, or just need a checkup for your little one? Contact us by giving us a call at (828) 277-6060, or by requesting an appointment through our contact form!