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Dental care for kids
As an adult, you know your teeth and gum health is important. In fact, we’d hazard a guess that your daily dental habits are impeccable. But kids? We’d bet that they’re doing a half-hearted brush for under two minutes – on a good day. It can be so hard to ensure your child is brushing properly at all and then possibly even harder to motivate them to do so twice a day for two whole minutes.
That’s why we’ve spoken with Dentist, Dr Gizelle Kaunitz about her best tips for encouraging good dental habits for kids. She’s explained everything you need to know about dental care for kids...including, tips and tricks for teaching them good habits from the get-go.
RELATED: How to overcome dental anxiety
The ideal dental routine
Let’s start with the basics. If they’re old enough, your children should be brushing their own teeth, says Dr Kaunitz. “Otherwise, an adult should brush or at least supervise the routine, once or twice per day,” she advises. “The easiest way to make sure that the brushing is effective is to seat the child in a low back armchair and tip the head back with an overhead light nearby.”
Children should also be going to the dentist every six months for a clean and check-up. “The dentist checks for decay, effective brushing, dental erosion, bite interference and other problems and monitors the possible orthodontic intervention that may become apparent as the jaws develop and grow,” explains Dr Kaunitz.
Eating and drinking for dental health
Instead of snacking all day, it’s better for children to eat a number of solid meals, Dr Kaunitz says. Solid foods like bread crusts are especially good for helping with jaw development. “Food should be served whole so the child can chew the food and start digestion in the oral cavity where saliva is developed and starts digesting the food as well as protects the teeth and gums,” she says. “Fresh fruit, vegetables, protein and good fats are good for dental health as well as general wellbeing,” she says.
In terms of what shouldn’t be in your child’s diet, Dr Kaunitz says to avoid fruit juice because of its acidity (which can cause erosion that’s difficult to repair), soft drinks, cordial and fruit bars (which are high in sugar, sticky and leave a film on teeth that encourages bacterial growth).
Leading by example
As a parent, you should be leading by example and putting dental hygiene habits high on the priority list. “Always leave time to brush children’s teeth, try not to rush this so the process is relaxed and pleasant,” Dr Kauntiz says.
Your personal perception (read: hang-ups) about the dentist is also setting an example for your child. So, if you’re terrified of your own dental check-ups? Don’t let it show, but also don’t overcorrect. “When making a dental appointment, for [your]self or [your] children, never imply that the visit will be painful by say[ing], ‘The dentist won’t hurt, don’t worry you will be fine,’” explains Dr Kaunitz. “This to a child means that the dental treatment does hurt. Don’t say to children that you, as an adult, dislike and avoid going for dental visits because this again sends an unintended message to children.”
Baby teeth are important
“People believe that the baby teeth are not important because they will fall out anyway,” says Dr Kaunitz. But this is a myth. “Habits are formed early and good hygiene is for life. If decay is present in baby teeth, the bacteria in decay can infect adjacent teeth so the decay process progresses,” she explains. “If the decay is very deep and infects the pulp there will be pain which may cause an abscess and need further expensive treatment. If baby teeth are lost prematurely, permanent teeth may erupt incorrectly or the bite may change as other teeth fill the space of the missing tooth. The result is that further problems are created for the child and makes orthodontic treatment more difficult and protracted.”
Tips and tricks
“Bribery and reward sometimes work. My daughter banned the TV for her young son until he brushed his teeth properly and regularly and when he viewed the risk/reward balance he decided to cooperate,” says Dr Kaunitz. “Make dental hygiene a normal part of the daily routine. Don’t make excuses why it can be skipped on any day and children usually cooperate when it becomes a routine.”
What did your child’s dental routine look like? How did you encourage good dental habits?