Once your child is six months of age, their first set of teeth start to appear. By the age of three, they should have a full set of twenty baby teeth. Teeth are at risk of being damaged or decaying as soon as they emerge from the gums, thus teaching oral habits must begin early.
When it comes to children and their teeth, children are not always aware of the importance of their oral health. It is up to the parents to teach them about oral health and good oral habits. While most children are predisposed to having poor oral habits by nature, replacing these habits with healthy habits early on can create a solid foundation of oral health.
Since children are unaware of the damage that can be done to their teeth, they tend to do things that are not beneficial to their oral well-being. These include: chewing on hard objects, grinding and/or clenching their teeth, brushing too hard, biting their nails, sucking on their fingers, and running with things in their mouth. In addition, their nutritional habits such as drinking too much soda, chewing sugar gum, and eating too many sweets can cause problems as well.
While some of these activities may seem harmless at first, they can actually cause long-term dental problems such as tooth damage, tooth decay, tooth loss, and oral soft tissue damage. Chewing on hard objects, grinding and/or clenching teeth, nail-biting, and running with items in their mouth can cause tooth fractures. Excessively sucking on fingers can cause the upper and lower arches of the mouth to develop improperly and could result in “bucked teeth” or “piano teeth”. Finally, brushing too hard can cause the gums to recess and damages the enamel, or protective layer.
Although it may be difficult to explain to a young child why good oral habits are essential, by starting them on good oral habits you will assure that they continue these habits as they grow. It is important to prioritize your child’s dental care from the time their first teeth begin to emerge. Until they can adequately brush on their own, you will need to brush their teeth twice daily with a small, pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Make sure they do not swallow the toothpaste or buy a child’s toothpaste which is gentler.
You also want to make sure that you help your child through the teething process. Most children begin teething around six months of age and will continue until they’ve developed all their baby teeth. Teething can cause discomfort, irritability, sleep problems, loss of appetite, and excessive drooling. To help alleviate some of the discomfort, you can rub your baby’s gums lightly with your fingertips or provide them with something cool to chew on such as a refrigerated pacifier or teething ring.
Once your child has started to develop teeth, you will also need to take them to get their first dental appointment. Since the risk of tooth decay emerges with their teeth, you want to make sure their teeth are in good shape from the beginning. It is important to make this visit a positive experience so that your child will not develop a fear of the dentist. Usually, the first exam is a simple check of all the teeth and a consultation about future care.
By minimizing your child’s poor oral habits and teaching them good oral habits, you can ensure that your child will continue to use these habits as they grow. It is important to create a foundation of good oral habits that they can build upon for the rest of their lives.