A recent survey on oral health reveals that 8 out of 10 children in India suffer from oral health issues. Oral problems in kids vary from plaque accumulation, white spots on teeth, visible caries, gum inflammation, bad breath to bleeding gum. Oral issues, if not treated on time, may lead to troubles in other body parts too, like jaw pain, ear pain, difficulty in eating and speaking, etc. However, the good news is these oral problems are preventable by maintaining proper oral hygiene for kids.
Why is oral hygiene important?
Healthy teeth are important for the chewing process. If oral hygiene is not maintained, cavities and infected gums will make the mouth sore and eating will be difficult. They also help in speaking and give your child the confidence to smile wholeheartedly.
Many parents believe that it is okay to not care for baby teeth as they are anyway going to fall. Know that this is a myth. Decaying baby teeth will negatively impact the growth of permanent teeth and will lead to future dental problems.
How do teeth development occur?
Generally, baby teeth start appearing from 4 to 8 months of age and for some, the first pearly whites will appear only by their first birthday. Usually, the bottom front teeth are first to appear. By the age of 3 years, most of the kids have a full set of 20 teeth. These are milk teeth. Milk teeth start falling from the age of 5 to 6 years.
Adults have a full set of 32 teeth including wisdom teeth which might grow from early teen to early adulthood.
Teaching Good Oral Habits in Kids
The best way to educate the children about oral hygiene is to teach them good oral practices which will help them to adopt these practices in their daily routine. The younger the child is, the more attention the kid will need from the parents. Let us have a look at how oral hygiene can be developed and maintained in kids of different age groups.
Dental Hygiene for Babies (0-2 years)
Babies are born with all the teeth buds. They are not visible as they are hidden under the gums. Oral hygiene of babies is important as tooth decay can develop in babies too. Tooth decay in babies occurs when they sleep with a bottle filled with milk/ juice. Sugar in milk (formula milk and breast milk both) and juice accumulate in the gum and around the teeth and affect oral health badly. Oral hygiene in babies can be maintained in the following ways.
- Use a soft washcloth or dental wipes after every feeding to wipe your baby’s gums.
- Once the teeth start appearing, brush the teeth at least once a day.
- You can use finger brushes with soft silicone bristles as the first stage.
- Move to a stage 2 toothbrush with soft elastic bristles when the baby is ready for a brush. A stage 2 toothbrush gives your baby the freedom to brush their teeth on their own.
- Toothpaste containing fluoride can be used to brush. Use only rice grain-sized smear with a soft bristle brush for kids age below 3.
- Don’t allow your baby to drink milk or juice from a bottle for a longer duration. Also, don’t let your baby sleep with a bottle in the mouth.
Consult a dentist after the appearance of the first tooth or before the first birthday whichever comes first. This is to know about any possible tooth decay and some possible recommendations related to fluoride-based toothpaste.
Oral Hygiene for Children (2-12 years)
As mentioned earlier, most of the primary teeth (milk teeth) are lost and permanent teeth are developed by the age of 13 years. During childhood, the following points should be remembered to take proper care of teeth.
- By the time, the baby turns two, kids should start brushing twice a day using toothpaste. Until your child grows enough to brush himself/herself, he/she might need help from you in the learning process.
- Apply toothpaste onto the brush and teach him/her to brush all the teeth front and back with upward- downward and sideward strokes.
- Also, make sure that the child washes the mouth properly after brushing. Ensure to remove all the toothpaste from the mouth. You may use clean moist swabs to clean the teeth until your child learns to gargle and wash the mouth.
- After the child turns two, he/ she should be discouraged from sucking the thumb or pacifier.
Oral Hygiene for Teens (13-19 years)
By teenage, the child gets all the permanent teeth and is capable and responsible for oral hygiene. A rigorous daily dental hygiene routine becomes crucial for healthy teeth and gums. Here are a few ways to keep the teens’ dental hygiene routine on track.
- As the child grows, he/she becomes more conscious of the looks, remind them that good oral hygiene will help them to keep their teeth healthy and make them look better and feel better.
- Encourage your child to brush at least twice a day and clean mouth well after every meal. This will help fight cavities and make the teeth and gums strong.
- Daily oral care will also help to boost their confidence with a beautiful smile and fresh breath.
- Explain to your child the importance of flossing and how it will help to keep their teeth healthy and free from cavities.
- Use a suitable anti-bacterial mouthwash.
- Encourage them to wear a mouth guard to protect their teeth from injuries during rigorous sports activities.
- Apart from these points, also encourage your child to develop healthy dietary habits, like- drink plenty of water, avoid drinking too many soft drinks, sports drinks, soda, also to avoid tobacco and drinking alcohol.
- Make sure that your child uses a power brush and floss if he/she is wearing braces.
In addition to the above-mentioned age-specific oral regime, there are a few general points that every parent should keep in mind.
Few more ways to oral hygiene in kids
- Remember the formula for good oral hygiene – 2X2. This slogan means brushing twice for two minutes each time. This is the most basic thing a parent can teach their child for good oral hygiene.
- Show your children how to brush with proper strokes. Remind them to clean the hard-to-reach area and back of the teeth along with cleaning front teeth.
- Limit the sugary snacks and drinks.
- Get them their favorite toothbrush with their favorite color and character.
- Don’t forget to reward them for the good job done.
- Include the books on oral health in your library.
- Teach your child to clean their tongue too to keep their breath fresh and mouth healthy.
- Plan regular visit to the dentist at the interval of 6 months. This will help to keep the early detection of any kind of tooth decay. The dentist will also guide you about any extra oral care required specifically by your child.
I hope these points help to develop healthy oral habits in your kids. Remember that you are the role model of your child. You must follow healthy oral habits which your child would definitely follow and learn by observation.
How do you practice oral hygiene for kids? Did we miss anything? If yes comment below.
Also, don’t forget to smile and shine!!