It can be difficult to get kids on board with brushing and taking care of their teeth and while they do lose their deciduous (baby) teeth the early habits and oral conditions can have an effect on the permanent adult teeth that follow them.
Teeth aid in a child’s ability to smile, speak, chew and gives structure to the face all of these things can affect a child’s social interactions and self-esteem. They are space maintainers for the permanent teeth so that they may hopefully be guided into the correct position in the mouth and promote correct oral health behaviours that will be used for a lifetime.
To aid the baby teeth it is important to look at several factors including:
Diet – while diet has an effect on oral hygiene it can also change when a child is severely affected by caries as children may be continuing to eat foods that have a negative impact on oral health or may turn to softer easier to chew foods. Be sure to monitor a child’s sugar intake as sugar is metabolised by the bacteria that is able to create decay.
Systemic disease – certain diseases such as diabetes can have an effect on oral health both at a young age and later in life. Building good habits at a young age will aid in allowing children to keep their teeth healthy and hopefully prevent need for major dental work.
Brushing and flossing – it is important to brush twice per day (morning and night), when plaque builds up on the teeth for prolonged periods of time it can begin to affect the enamel surface of the tooth. This change will first it will appear as a new white spot on the tooth (at this stage if it is kept clean it may not result in a cavity) and after this may further progress into a cavity. It is important to brush your child’s teeth from the appearance of the first baby tooth up until an age where they have the dexterity to brush alone. Assisted/shared brushing is advised even to the age of 8-9 often with the adult doing the nightly brush and the child being allowed to handle the morning one. After ceasing to brush it is still important to monitor the child/adolescence’s teeth so that a high standard of oral health can be achieved.
Behaviour – there are several behaviours that can affect the placement of the teeth and the promotion of jaw growth including sucking on a dummy or thumb, a tongue thrust, clenching and grinding and open mouth breathing. Each of these actions may have an effect on baby teeth but may also have long term consequences and effects on adult teeth that may require intervention at a later point.
Taking children for regular dental check-ups (especially when nothing is wrong) is an important step in building trust, pointing out any areas of concern early and creating a good hygiene habit for later life. Early dental visits can make intervention much easier on the child, parent and practitioner as they have previous good experiences to reflect back upon.