Promoting Good Oral Hygiene Habits for Kids
By: Doris Ohlmann
After a Sugar-Filled Holiday Weekend, it's a Good Time to Talk about Keeping Kids' Smiles Healthy. Doris Ohlmann talks about how…
Dental decay, a disease caused by bacterial infection, is one of the most common disorders of childhood. According to the Canadian Dental Association, it affects about 60 per cent of children aged five to 17. To ensure your child maintains healthy teeth and gums, it’s important to encourage a consistent cleaning and flossing routine and have regular checkups with your family dental care provider to address any concerns as your child grows.
Up to three years of age
Baby teeth come in at different rates for different babies but will come in when they are ready. Generally, most baby teeth will have erupted by the time a child is 18 months to two years of age. A balanced, nutritious diet for Mom while breastfeeding will ensure your baby’s new teeth are strong. Breast or formula milk or cooled boiled water are the best drinks for your baby’s teeth. You can give your baby well diluted fruit juice (one part juice to five parts water) at mealtimes from six months of age but avoid serving drinks containing sugar, especially between meals, at bedtime or during the night as comforters.
Your baby’s teeth should be cleaned at least once a day as soon as there is a sufficient amount of teeth showing. A soft,wet cloth to wipe the inside of your baby’s mouth is usually enough to keep the area clean. Bath time is often a good time to perform this task. Later, when there are more teeth, use a small, soft, nylon baby toothbrush. Use a small amount of children’s toothpaste and massage it around baby’s gums and teeth, preferably after every feeding.
Poor oral hygiene and late weaning from the bottle, as well as feeding habits such as putting a baby to bed with a bottle or giving the baby a pacifier dipped in sugar, can be risk factors for developing Early Childhood Caries, a rapid form of dental decay that can affect pre-schoolers and cause pain, poor sleep and poor eating habits.
Prolonged use of feeding bottles or pacifiers may also result in the upper teeth being pushed out, resulting in an overbite in the front teeth later, which may need orthodontic care.
Four to eight years of age
Lisping is the most common speech impediment and is relatively easy to correct. Many sounds are made with the tongue against or near the teeth. Misaligned teeth or jaws can interfere with speech. For instance, a person with a particular type of bad bite may pronounce “s” and “z” sounds like “th.” Proby longed thumb sucking or finger sucking can create an open bite, resulting in a lisp. Long-term thumb sucking may also
leave large gaps between teeth and can be the basis for the condition called tongue thrusting. This is actually reverse swallowing and will eventually lead to improper tooth alignment, possibly affecting speech. Lisping can also be the result of a narrow palate, which does not allow
enough room for the tongue to pronounce some sounds.
If the thumb sucking habit has not been kicked by the time the permanent teeth start to set in, it causes problems for the proper development of the growing teeth. Most dentists will evaluate the situation using special x-rays. They will look at the wear and alignment of teeth and determine if any speech impediment is present. If the condition appears severe, a visit to an orthodontist may be recommended.
Nine to 13 years of age
Misaligned teeth can cause a variety of problems, including decay and gum disease, damage to jaw joints and speech difficulties. Generally, any dental problems can be detected by the age of nine and treated by the start of the teen years once the permanent (secondary) teeth have replaced baby (primary) teeth. Early intervention and treatment is preferred since the process is usually quicker and easier because the jaw is easier to manipulate than in adults.
Orthodontics is a type of dentistry that corrects teeth and jaw alignment problems. The range of corrective devices includes braces, rubber bands and headgear. Your regular dentist will monitor your child’s teeth and offer suggestions for orthodontic care if they feel it is necessary.
Maintaining overall healthy oral practices will go a long way to ensure your child’s teeth and gums are strong and will last into adulthood. Fostering a routine of regular brushing and flossing when they are very young will help them manage this important health task when they’re older.
Doris Ohlmann is a freelance writer and regular contributor
to Ottawa Family Living
Public Health units across Ontario are working with dentists, schools, and health care providers to help provide access to dental care for those
in need. This Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care initiative is a new program for kids 17 and under. Through the Healthy Smiles Ontario program, if you are eligible, your kids will get free regular dental services. For more information, visit www.health.gov.on.ca or check with your
local Health Unit.
Ottawa Public Health
100 Constellation Crescent, Ottawa, ON K2G 6J8
613 580-6744 www.ottawa.ca/health
Tykes and Teeth
It’s not easy to get a toddler to stay still long enough to brush their teeth. Tooth Tissues are a simple solution. With Tooth Tissues, a simple swipe of baby’s gums and teeth help prevent tooth decay. Invented by dentists who wanted to develop a natural product that makes this task quick and ple, Tooth Tissues are also soothing for teething gums. Made with aloe vera, they are paraben-free and formulated with xylitol, which is a proven cavity fighter. Tooth Tissues come in a convenient package filled with 30 disposable wipes so they’re great for travel and for families on the go. Priced at $6.99 (U.S. funds), they are available at www.toothtissues.com.
The Canadian Dental Association website offers a number of fun activities for children to learn about oral health, including a word-find game, connect the dots, and a maze. See www.cda-adc.ca/en/cda/news_events/health_month/index.asp.
DLTK Kids offers a number of dental-related activities for kids on their website, including poems, colouring pages, crafts, and a Tooth Fairy
Certificate. See www.dltk-kids.com/crafts/miscellaneous/dental_health_month.htm.
There are a number of children’s books available about dental health, including:
Franklin and the Tooth Fairy
Paulette Bourgeois and Brenda Clark
Just Going to the Dentist
Little Rabbit’s Loose Tooth
The Bully Brothers Trick the Tooth Fairy
The Mango Tooth