With ‘back to school’ season just around the corner, an investment in your child’s oral health is one that will pay lifelong dividends. Teaching your child how to properly take care of their teeth and oral health starts by setting an example; taking care of your own teeth sends a message to your child that oral health is something to be valued. Making the learning process more fun for children, by brushing alongside them or letting them choose a bright and colorful toothbrush, helps reinforce that message.

To help your children develop the right mindsets when it comes to oral care, teach them to brush their teeth twice daily with fluoride-rich toothpaste. Brushing teeth in the morning is important because our mouths are naturally acidic after just waking up, making certain foods too harsh on our teeth. Toothpaste neutralizes the PH levels of our mouth and protects our teeth from eating or drinking acidic substances, such as orange juice. Nighttime brushing is equally important for the same reason – protecting our teeth from cavities and decay by cleaning any food residue left in our mouth after dinner or a late-night snack.

In addition to brushing our teeth, teaching our children to floss daily at a young age helps reinforce a habit that will last a lifetime. You can start helping your child floss at age four, with most children able to floss their teeth by themselves by age eight. Flossing helps remove plaque between teeth and under the gum-line, before it hardens into tartar. Brushing our teeth isn’t enough to get to those hard-to-reach places and sustain proper oral health. Once tartar has been formed, it can only be removed by professional cleaning – preventing such issues before they occur means your child has more pleasurable meetings with their dentist!

This brings about an important point – that it is crucial to accustom your child to regular visits to their dentist. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends children begin visiting the dentist from age one, or within six months after their first tooth appears. Primary teeth typically begin growing from six months of age.

“Baby teeth” are as important to infants and children as permanent teeth are to adults. These first teeth are necessary for a child to chew and speak and save space for your child’s future permanent teeth. If teeth on either side of the open space encroach upon empty space, there might not be room for your child’s future permanent teeth. If teeth become overcrowded and misaligned, they become more difficult to clean, increasing the chance of becoming infected or diseased, and will later require time-consuming and costly orthodontic treatment.

Moreover, to further ensure your child practices good oral care, it is important to ensure that their diet limits starchy and/or sugary foods, which produce plaque acids, eventually leading to tooth decay. When they choose to consume any of these foods, it is best to include them as part of a meal, rather than an isolated snack. When consumed as part of a meal, the saliva produced helps rinse out the teeth and doesn’t allow the sugary/starchy foods to stick in your child’s mouth.

Water is also essential when it comes to your child’s oral health. Make sure your child is drinking water that is fluoridated. Fluoride, a substance found natural in water, plays an important role in healthy tooth development and cavity prevention. Fluoride combats tooth-decay in two ways; it is incorporated into the structure of developing teeth when ingested, and it shields teeth as soon as it comes in contact with them. Fluoride prevents the acid produced by bacteria in plaque from dissolving your child’s tooth enamel, and allows your child’s teeth that are damaged by acid to repair.

Teaching your child good oral hygiene habits early can lead to a lifelong healthy smile. If you have any questions about your child’s current oral health, it’s best to schedule an appointment with your dentist before the school year begins. At the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery Hospital (AACSH), our dentists are available to answer any of your dental-related questions – from what to avoid when packing your child’s lunchboxes to ensuring your child is receiving their daily requirement of fluoride.