Ways to protect your child's oral health

Teach Good Habits

Brushing is crucial. Even before your baby has teeth, you can gently brush her /his gums. Use water on a baby toothbrush, or clean them with a soft washcloth. When teeth appear, brush them twice daily with an infant toothbrush and fluoridated toothpaste. Start flossing when two teeth touch each other. Brush and floss just before bedtime. No food or drink, except water should then be taken until the next morning.

Your dentist can recommend when to start using mouthwash. It is normally safe to start doing so when the child can definitely spit the mouthwash out.

Avoid 'Baby Bottle Decay'

Don't put your infant or older child down for a nap with a bottle of juice, formula, or milk. Sugary liquids cling to baby's teeth, feeding bacteria that can trigger tooth decay. If you must give your child a bottle to take to bed, make sure it contains only water or diluted Rooibos tea.

Skip the Juice

Many parents think juice is a healthy daylong choice for a beverage, but that's not the case. It has been linked to childhood obesity and tooth decay. Restrict sugary drinks and foods to mealtimes.

Control the Sippy Cup

A sippy cup helps kids move from a bottle to a regular cup. Many kids keep the cup with them all day. Prolonged use of a sippy cup,can cause decay on the back of the front teeth, if the beverages are sugary.

Ditch the Pacifier

Pacifiers used in the first year of life may actually help prevent sudden infant death syndrome. Use a pacifier when putting your infant to sleep but don’t reinsert it once baby drifts off. Long-term use can affect how the top and bottom teeth line up (the "bite") or can affect the shape of the mouth. Note that pacifiers are for infants, not for toddlers.

Beware of Medicines

Children's medications can be flavoured and sugary. If they stick on the teeth, the risk of decay goes up. Children on medications for chronic conditions such as asthma and heart problems often have a higher tooth decay rate. Antibiotics and some asthma medications can cause an overgrowth of Candida (yeast), which can lead to a fungal infection called oral thrush. Signs are creamy, curd-like patches on the tongue or inside the mouth. Talk to your dentist about how often to brush for a child on long-term medications. It could be as often as four times a day.

Stand Firm on Oral Hygiene

If kids put up a fuss when it is time to brush, floss, and rinse, don't let them off the hook. Let them know they don't have a choice. Here are some tips for assisting parents to establish oral hygiene for toddlers and young children.

  • Be patient. Kids can start brushing their teeth with help from a grown-up around 2 or 3 years of age, but they may not be ready to do it alone until about age 6. Flossing skills don't get good until later, probably age 10.
  • Don’t wait too late. Try brushing, flossing and rinsing when your child isn't too tired. You may get more cooperation.
  • Get buy-in. Involve kids in an age-appropriate way. Kids 5 or older can pick their own toothpaste from options you approve.
  • Motivate. A younger child may gladly brush for a sticker or gold stars on a chart. Or make it a group activity. Kids might be more likely to join in if they see the grown-ups brushing.

Source: WebMD

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