As many parents already know, good oral care is akin to excellent health. And although the best time to begin orthodontic treatment is when a child reaches the age of seven, you shouldn’t put off general dental care.
It’s understandable that parents might be concerned about making annual or bi-annual appointments right now. But dentists are taking every possible precaution to create a safe environment for patients of all ages during the pandemic. If at all possible, it’s typically a good idea to keep those appointments to ensure your child receives the care they need to keep their teeth healthy and bright. And if your child already has dental issues or is an orthodontic patient, they’ll likely need to continue seeing their dental professional. Since the average individual with braces wears them for about two years, those appointments aren’t just something you can conceivably skip without treatment delays.
That said, regular dental appointments are only one part of the equation. If you want to protect your children’s teeth for the long term, you’ll need to establish healthy habits at home. Here are just a few tips to give both you and your kids something to smile about this summer.
Establish a Brushing and Flossing Routine
Not surprisingly, you’ll need to monitor and help your kids to make sure they’re brushing and flossing as they should. Flossing will need to start when your child’s teeth are starting to fit more closely together (which usually happens between the ages of two and six). Kids lack the manual dexterity of adults, especially when they’re first starting out, so your involvement here is key. Brushing sessions should last for around two minutes apiece. Kids between the ages of two and six should also use a toothpaste with fluoride, which can strengthen tooth enamel and prevent decay.
Include Tooth-Friendly Foods
Your child’s diet plays a big role in their oral health. Calcium is one of the best nutrients for your teeth, so yogurt, cereal with milk, green vegetables, and cheese are all great ingredients to include in their regular eating routine. Other foods like eggs, nuts and seeds, and crunchy produce (like apples, carrots, and celery) can be tooth-friendly additions, as well. Not only do they contain the vitamins and minerals kids need to grow up healthy and strong, but they can also remove plaque in a delicious way. Water is also an important element of healthy eating; it’ll keep your kids hydrated and, with a little swish after each meal, it can remove the food remnants that would otherwise transform into buildup and potential decay.
Identify the Worst Nutritional Offenders
Roughly one-third of homeowners say they change to a healthier lifestyle after remodeling their kitchen, but you don’t need a home renovation project to embrace a healthier diet that supports oral care. Dental experts caution parents to limit their children’s consumption of sugary drinks (including juices and sports drinks), hard candies, and even citrus fruits. While these are okay in moderation, excessive consumption can erode enamel and make the teeth more vulnerable to decay. Sticky or starchy foods — like dried fruits, soft bread, cookies, pasta, and chips — stay on the teeth for longer periods, which can result in added decay. Limit how much applesauce or fruit cups kids consume during lunch, as well, since these can have a lot of added sugar; in the majority of cases, kids are much better off eating the whole fruit. Overall, plain chocolate is preferable to hard or chewy candies, as it’s not as likely to become lodged between the teeth.
Keep in mind that there’s no rule that says your child can’t partake in the occasional sticky snack or that one floss-free night will cause a cavity. But by keeping these guidelines in mind this summer, your whole family will be able to focus on oral health — and that’s essential for overall wellness.