Teaching our children about the importance of dental hygiene and oral health truly cannot start soon enough – but it is often easier said than done. I don’t know about you, but if I think back to when I was a child, I certainly didn’t enjoy brushing my teeth!
It doesn’t have to be a chore, however. Get the basics right from the start and your children will be thanking you in their adult years come check-up time.
Ideally, children should start going to the dentist with their parents as soon as possible – whenever those first teeth come through. From there your dental team will recommend how often you should come back. Taking them into the clinical dental environment early gets children used to the sights, sounds, smells and surroundings of the dentist, preparing them for future visits.
Remember to always speak positively about your own trips to the dentist. The last thing you want is a child with a severe case of odontophobia (that’s the irrational fear of dentists to you and me), before they’ve even started brushing their own teeth.
Start them young
Of course regular brushing is crucial to dental hygiene, and in very young children the onus is on you to get this right. Even before baby teeth break the surface it can be a good idea to gently brush your child’s gums with water and a soft toothbrush or washcloth. Not only does this reduce the build-up of bacteria, but it helps to get the child used to the sensation.
As soon as baby’s first tooth appears, brush twice daily – morning and night – with a soft infant toothbrush and a tiny amount of infant fluoride toothpaste. There is no need to worry about flossing until two or more teeth are touching and cannot be cleaned on all sides by a brush. Your dentist will be able to offer advice on when to start and how to achieve the best results.
So now that you’ve got your child on the pathway to great oral health, how do you keep them on it once they start to gain that independence?
Taking the next stepGood habits die hard
Of course, there are other factors at play when it comes to the state of your child’s teeth – genetics being one them – but the importance of good dental care habits cannot be underestimated. While they may have small teeth like dad or receding gums like grandma, ultimately your child’s oral hygiene comes down to how well they look after those teeth they’ve been given.
Sure, some children will inherit better teeth than others, and that will play a part as they develop. But fail to take care of the teeth and the outcome is the same regardless. That’s because there really is no substitute for good oral hygiene, and getting into the habit early makes a world of difference, helping to stave off various issues like gum disease, cavities, decay – and ultimately tooth loss – in later life.
So remember, make your child’s dental care a habit – not a chore – and they’ll thank you every time they head for a check-up!
About the author:
BDS cum laude, FFD (SA) MFOS
Cert. Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery
Dr. Costa, BDS cum laude, FFD (SA) MFOS, qualified as a dentist in 1984 after receiving his dental degree from the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. He graduated at the top of his class with “rank order number one,” and has received numerous awards over the years, including the Gold Medal of the Dental Association of South Africa, which recognizes the most outstanding graduate. In 1990 he completed his four-year, full-time postgraduate in maxillo-facial and oral surgery training at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa. Since 1991 he has been in private practice, concentrating on immediate loading of dental implants. To date Dr. Costa has placed over 35,000 dental implants, and as a key member of the global dental implant community he is a regular speaker on the topic, lecturing at various international implant congresses. In 2012, together with Prosthodontist Dr. Petros, Dr. Costa established SameDay Dental Implants Clinic, Dubai, as well as the Branemark Osseointegration Center, Dubai.