It’s never too early to start on healthy habits that will last a lifetime

By Regina Arnold

Creating healthy habits at a young age is essential, especially when it comes to your child’s teeth. Although some may think that the primary teeth are not important, they actually play a vital role in a child’s oral health and development.

Dr. Douglas Sanchez at Infinity Dental explains the importance of a child’s primary teeth. “Primary teeth allow a child to chew or masticate food so they can obtain the proper nutrition he or she needs to grow and develop. Children with dental caries often have pain and infection associated with a carious tooth making the child avoid painful stimuli, such as brushing and biting. If infection in a primary tooth goes untreated, damage to the enamel of the permanent tooth that replaces the primary tooth can occur.”
Showing your child the proper way to take care of their teeth is as simple as setting a good example. Letting them watch as you brush your teeth allows them to see how it should be done.

Dr. Sanchez advises to let the child brush his or her teeth and then follow up afterward by assisting the child brushing. “Brush on a regular basis. It is recommended that children brush with the assistance of a parent twice per day with a soft, age-appropriate toothbrush. Toothpastes containing fluoride should be used with a pea-size amount of toothpaste on the toothbrush. Children need adult supervision and assistance until the child can write their name in cursive. It is at this point that most children have the dexterity to brush by themselves,” Dr. Sanchez said.

Pacifiers and bottles are a normal part of infancy, but if used for too long it can cause damage to the child’s mouth. Dr. Sanchez suggests that babies be weaned from the bottle by 12 months and from the pacifier by 18-24 months. “Longer periods of non-nutritional sucking can lead to a narrow palate, posterior cross bite or anterior open bite,” he explains.

He also warns parents about putting a child to bed with a bottle. “Do not put children to bed with a bottle. When children are placed in bed with a bottle at bedtime, the child has a continuous flow of carbohydrate (sugar) entering his or her mouth. Bacteria eat these sugars and produce acid that demineralizes enamel, or in other words causes cavities.” Dr. Sanchez said.

By taking initiative, parents can help their child have a healthy mouth. According to Dr. Sanchez, cavities are 100 percent avoidable and usually begin with diet. “Have your child eat a diet low in fermentable carbohydrates. Items like bread and crackers are high in carbohydrates and also stick to the teeth,” said Dr. Sanchez, “Avoid soda! Soda contains extremely high amounts of sugar, not to mention the soda itself is acidic and erodes enamel.”

Regular visits to the dentist are another important factor in maintaining proper healthcare for your child’s mouth. If your child is afraid of going to the dentist, regular visits allow him or her to become comfortable. Parents can remind their child that the dentist is there to help and also avoid words like “needle” and “yank out teeth,” these words only increase fear. Taking kids to the dentist on a regular basis allows a dental professional to observe and recommend possible areas that are of concern or that are being missed when brushing.