Everything You Need to Know About Dental Hygiene for Kids

Dental and oral hygiene for kids is essential to your overall health and well-being. Maintaining healthy teeth and gums is a lifelong commitment. Poor oral hygiene can lead to dental cavities, tooth decay, and gum disease and has also been linked to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

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The dental cavity or tooth decay is the most common dental problem among children. Many parents assume that cavities in baby teeth don’t matter because they’ll be lost anyway. But that’s not true. Healthy baby teeth are crucial for a child’s growth and development. They help the child to chew or eat, enable speech development, and guide permanent teeth into an appropriate position. Dental decay in baby teeth can negatively affect permanent teeth and lead to future dental problems.

Also, poor oral and dental hygiene can contribute to issues with kid’s self-esteem, speech, or nutrition. They can also affect their comfort and overall quality of life. Many dental and oral problems develop without any symptoms. The earlier you teach proper oral hygiene habits to your children – such as brushing, flossing, and limiting their sugar intake, the easier it will be to avoid dental and long-term health issues.

Why Healthy Baby Teeth Are Important

dental hygiene for kids

Baby teeth, also known as milk or primary teeth, are the first to appear when children are around 6 months of age, and they will have 20 baby teeth by age 3. Baby teeth act as placeholders, creating space in the jaw for future permanent teeth. When a permanent tooth is ready to erupt, the root of a baby tooth begins to dissolve until it’s completely gone. At that point, the tooth is “loose” and only held in place by the surrounding gum tissue.

From the age of 6, children will eventually lose all of their baby teeth by the time they’re 12 years old. By the time they reach their teenage years, they’ll have 32 permanent adult teeth.

Many parents assume it’s not essential to care for baby teeth as much as permanent teeth because children are going to lose them. However, baby teeth are vital for their overall health and development.

Here are the reasons why healthy baby teeth are important:

1. Hold spaces open for the permanent teeth to come in.

Baby teeth hold space for adult teeth growing in the jaw. If a baby’s tooth is lost too early, other teeth which are already in the mouth will move into space. It can block out the adult tooth trying to come in and cause crowding. The upper and lower jaws may not meet appropriately because of the crooked teeth.

2. Make it easier for your child to talk more clearly.

Children who lose baby teeth too early may have trouble making certain sounds, making it hard to understand what the child is speaking. A child may need speech therapy to improve problems that may develop because of missing teeth.

3. Make chewing and eating easier.

Children need to eat healthy foods every day to grow and be strong. Children with tooth decay are less likely to eat crunchy foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Being able to eat these foods promotes good nutrition and a healthy weight.

Common Dental Problems in Kids

Here are some of the common dental hygiene problems in both kids and adults:

1. Dental Cavities or Tooth Decay

Cavities, called caries or tooth decay, are very common in children and adults. Cavities are areas of the tooth that have been permanently damaged and may even have holes. They occur when bacteria, food, and acid coat our teeth and form plaque. The acid on our teeth starts to eat away at the enamel and then the underlying dentin, or connective tissue leading to permanent damage over time. Cavities happen faster in baby teeth than in permanent teeth.

2. Gum Disease

Gum disease, also called gingivitis, is inflammation of the gums. It results from plaque building up on our teeth due to poor brushing habits. Gingivitis can make our gums swell and bleed when we brush. Untreated gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, a more severe infection.

3. Periodontitis

Periodontitis is a severe gum infection that damages the soft tissue and, without treatment, can destroy the bone that supports our teeth. It can cause teeth to loosen or lead to tooth loss.

4. Sensitive teeth

Tooth sensitivity, referred to as “dentin hypersensitivity,” is typically the result of worn tooth enamel or exposed tooth roots. It also occurs due to other factors such as tooth decay, cracked or chipped teeth, a worn filling, or gum disease. But some people naturally have sensitive teeth because they have thinner enamel.

Why is Brushing Teeth Important for Kids? 

dental hygiene for kids

Tooth brushing in kids is a vital dental care activity that promotes oral hygiene. According to Dentists, parents should start brushing their kid’s teeth twice daily to keep their teeth and gums healthy.

Here are some of the reasons why brushing is important for kids:

1. Brushing removes tartar or plaque buildup.

Both plaque and tartar buildup are common dental problems in kids. They can cause tooth decay and gum diseases. The little bristles on the toothbrush are designed to gently brush away the tartar and plaque that build up on the enamel of our teeth and around the gum line, promoting healthier teeth and gums.

2. Brushing helps prevent cavities and tooth decay.

Most kinds of toothpaste come with fluoride, which helps slow the breakdown of enamel and increases the rate of the remineralization process. It means the new enamel crystals that form are harder, larger, and more acid-resistant. Brushing your kid’s teeth regularly with fluoride toothpaste strengthens weak spots and prevents the early stages of tooth decay or cavities.

3. Brushing prevents bad breath.

The best way to improve bad breath in kids is to stick to a regular toothbrushing routine. Brushing teeth removes the food particles and bacteria that can cause bad breath.

4. Brushing promotes gum health.

Brushing overall promotes healthier teeth and gums in kids. Gently brushing cleans their teeth and massages their gums and gum line, too.

5. Brushing helps prevent teeth sensitivity.

Some kids have sensitive teeth, and specific activities, such as brushing, eating, and drinking, can cause sharp, temporary pain in their teeth. Regular brushing can help prevent sensitivity. 

When to Start Proper Oral Hygiene for Kids?

Your kid’s dental hygiene starts before the first tooth emerges above the gum line. It would be best if you start caring for babies’ gums as soon as they are born to protect them from dental problems. Also, establishing good oral health habits early on will help encourage lifelong patterns.

Teeth and Gum Care Tips for Infants and Toddlers

dental hygiene for kids

When your child is a baby, you can start by wiping their gums with a soft washcloth after feeding. As the first teeth begin erupting, you can switch to a small-headed, soft-bristled toothbrush and gently brush those tiny teeth with a dab of non-fluoridated toothpaste. When your child is about 3 years old, he will probably have all 20 baby teeth erupted, and you can start using a pea-sized dab of fluoride toothpaste twice a day.

If your child doesn’t like the taste of fluoride toothpaste, try different flavors. Also, try to teach your child not to swallow it, although, at this age, they are still too young to learn to rinse and spit. Swallowing too much fluoride toothpaste can make white or brown spots on your child’s adult teeth.

Supervise your child’s brushing until good habits are established. You should spend two minutes brushing their teeth, focusing on the teeth that conduct most of the chewing, and the back teeth, where cavities often first develop.

Besides regular toothbrushing with the right amount of fluoride toothpaste, parents also need to be aware of the impact that nutrition and eating/drinking habits have on oral health and overall health. Sugar is the big villain, and it’s important to limit the intake of sugary foods. The longer and more frequently his teeth are exposed to sugar, the greater the risk of cavities. Make sure to always brush your child’s teeth after a sugary food item.

Other Tips for Brushing Your Toddler’s Teeth

If your child is not readily cooperating with brushing teeth twice a day, you may need to get creative. Here are a few tips for making oral hygiene a little easier on the both of you:

– Make it fun

Sing songs or tell stories to make brushing more enjoyable.

– Stick to a routine

Children often do better when they know what to expect. Sticking to a routine can give them a sense of normalcy.

– Use a sticker chart or other incentives

Find an easy way to celebrate each time your child brushes their teeth until it’s an ingrained habit.

– Brush your teeth at the same time

Some kids like to imitate their parents. Watching you brush your teeth might inspire them to brush their own. Be their role model.

– Choose a fun toothbrush

Let your child choose their toothbrush, which can come in various colors and themes. They can have their favorite cartoon, TV show, or movie characters depicted. Make the experience as personalized and colorful as possible!

– Don’t neglect the tongue

Plaque can also build up on the tongue. Not only can this lead to bad mouth odor, but it can lead to other oral health problems. Please encourage them to brush their tongue every time they brush their teeth.

– Flossing is equally important

Flossing is a great way to stimulate the gums, reduce plaque, and help lower inflammation in the area. Make sure to floss between their teeth and gum line once daily. You can use regular floss or a flossing tool, whichever is easiest.

– Introduce healthy eating habits

Eating fresh, crunchy produce not only contains more healthy fiber but is also the best choice for your child’s teeth. Calcium intake is also important for healthy teeth.

When Do Kids Start Brushing Their Own Teeth?

There is no specific age or hand-and-fast rule about when kids are ready to brush their own teeth. Although young children can brush their teeth themselves, most children don’t have the manual dexterity and hand skills for thorough teeth cleaning until they are about 6 years old. However, some kids will learn how to brush earlier, and some will take longer. Until then, they might need assistance from a caregiver. By age 9, your kid should have learned how to brush well without swallowing toothpaste and leaving some teeth unbrushed.

Conclusion

Children are highly susceptible to dental cavities and tooth decay. More than 1 in 5 children aged 2 to 5 years have at least one cavity in their baby teeth. Cavities, also known as caries or tooth decay, are one of childhood’s most common chronic diseases. Untreated cavities can cause pain and infections and lead to problems eating, speaking, and learning. However, cavities are preventable with good oral health habits.

Children with poor dental and oral hygiene often miss more school and receive lower grades than kids who don’t. The most important thing you need to teach your child is how to maintain proper dental hygiene so that long after their baby teeth are gone and forgotten, their permanent teeth are in healthy shape. The best thing you can do is to remember how important it is for your child to maintain a healthy, clean smile. Take care of it at every stage of development, from their first baby tooth to their last.

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