A right of passage: That first time you take your child on a fast food adventure , isn’t it cute when they take that first nibble on a crispy McDonald’s french fry, often drenched in ketchup. The child is so adorable, the french fry tastes so good. Nobody thinks for a moment how we are starting that child down the road towards a possible addiction to unhealthy foods, towards diabetes, obesity and other health issues that will plague them for the rest of their lives. That first trip to McDonald’s is commonplace in so many households here in the United States, and everywhere around the world, will start them on the path to dental disease including cavities and gum disease.
The month of February is recognized as Children’s Dental Health Month. I really think it is important to establish healthy nutritional and oral health routines from the time a baby is an infant. Here are a few helpful tips that can help prevent dental disease from the start:
From infancy, the routine of cleaning your babies mouth out after they have milk or formula is important. The sugar in the milk can cause decay from the time the first teeth erupt into the mouth. It is especially important to refrain from allowing children sip on milk, or juice in a bottle throughout the day and especially at night. Baby bottle, or nursing bottle caries are really a struggle for the parent and the child, when their baby teeth erupt into the mouth rotten from the sugar in these drinks.
Really pay attention to food labels. Watch for the hidden sugars in a child’s diet that they might be consuming. Try and avoid processed foods as much as possible.
Brushing after meals, and especially at bedtimes is critical, as most of the bacteria builds up in ones mouth at night when they are sleeping and their mouth is closed. Also, ensuring that they develop healthy routines when it comes to brushing and flossing, starts when they are very young. In fact, one of the best things you can do is let them watch you as you brush and floss so they can emulate some great behaviors.
Sealants, which are a thin plastic coating, a protective layer that should be placed on all of the back teeth, once they have erupted into the child’s mouth, have shown to significantly decrease the amount of dental decay a child will get in the grooves of their teeth.
Finally, soon after the teeth start coming into your child’s mouth, is the right time to take them on their first visit to a dentist. Let them get used to the environment. It will help to prevent them from developing a fear of the dentist, that their parent’s might have had. It will also allow the dentist to evaluate their teeth and make sure to prevent and detect any dental problems before it will arise. Let your children develop a lifelong healthy relationship with one of the best preventive healthcare providers they will have for their entire lives.
Happy Children’s Dental Health Month!