Nothing ruins a person’s appearance more than bad teeth, and almost nothing is more likely to dim romance than bad breath.
As bad as these problems are, however, there are worse concerns. Poor oral health can lead to long-term diseases that affect the quality of life for both the sufferer and his or her loved ones.
This is why it is so important to teach your child how to brush properly. Life really does depend on it.
Oral Health Do’s
- Start your child early. At the first sign of those pearly whites, buy a very soft bristle toothbrush and start using it. Brush those first teeth, but without toothpaste. Include the gums.
- At the age of two, your little one may be ready to try self-brushing. Use a dot of toothpaste – about the size of a pen tip – and make the exercise fun by brushing your own teeth at the same time. Brush twice a day at least. Be sure to rinse. If your child can’t get the hang of sloshing and spitting, wipe his or her gums with a clean, wet washcloth. Toothpaste is not food, and should not be swallowed.
- Be sure to replace all brushes – your child’s as well as your own – every three months. If possible, let your child choose. This improves the sense of responsibility for dental self-care.
- Remove that fear of the dentist, at least in part, by making each dental visit the lead-in to a particularly enjoyable activity. Some choices might include going to the zoo, on a shopping trip, or even an overnight, backyard camping adventure, complete with barbeque and bedtime stories around a firepit.
- If you choose an activity to offset dentist-fear, try to avoid food-related situations, especially if your offspring has had a tooth pulled or filled. Also avoid excessive physical activity if the procedure required Novocain or gas, as these may cause distress or even disorientation.
Oral Health Don’ts
Don’t forget to brush after breakfast and dinner. Schoolchildren are rarely able to brush after lunch, but consistent twice-daily brushing should keep bacteria at bay.
Do not allow your child to eat between meals, especially sweets or dairy, as this encourages tooth decay.
Don’t encourage the use of mouthwash before your child is a teenager – the age when outstanding breath becomes very important. Many children find “swishing” difficult, and tend to swallow instead of spit. This is dangerous because mouthwash, like toothpaste, is not a food. It can contain alcohol and other non-edible ingredients.
If your child has bad breath, or wants to be just like an older sister or brother, fill a jar with baking soda and spring water (1/2 tsp. to 1 liter), both of which can be safely swallowed.
Poor Oral Health Leads To …
Tooth decay, gum disease, dry mouth, canker sores, Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD), and thrush, among other things.
All are treatable. Without treatment, poor oral health can cause endocarditis (a bacterial infection of the heart), stroke, and even clogged arteries in later life. It has also been linked to Alzheimer’s and osteoporosis – a disease in which the bones become brittle and weak.
Because oral health is a good indicator of health, everything from nutritional deficiencies to systemic diseases – those that affect the entire body – can result from poor oral health habits. These include eating disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, head and neck cancers, and Sjogren’s syndrome. Many times, ongoing disease is spotted by a dentist or dental technician. The sign may be as simple as a mouth sore – a precursor of AIDS/HIV – or as complex as sudden, widespread decay.
Improved oral health can make diabetes easier to control and prevent further gum disease and/or tooth loss. It can also improve the likelihood that your new baby achieves a healthy weight before birth, and goes full term rather than being born prematurely.