Enhancing your child’s smile

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Isai A Villanueva
  • 86th Dental Squadron
Imagine this, you take time out of your incredibly busy day to take your small child to the dentist. You and your child are met with a barrage of playful tooth posters, colorful chairs too small to sit in, your mind jumps to skittles - tasting the rainbow - and a nagging feeling starts creeping in that maybe, just maybe, your child has not brushed their teeth consistently for a while. Maybe your child does not like to brush their teeth, enjoys junk food a little too much, or misunderstands the importance of oral health.

Convincing a child to brush their teeth can be harder than running a marathon or even climbing mountains, but what is important to focus on are the facts. According to the American Association of Pediatric Dentists, tooth decay is the number one chronic infectious disease among children, which leads to the question that matters. How can this be prevented in your kid’s mouth?

A good start to preventing oral infections or diseases is brushing your child’s teeth twice per day, especially right before bedtime. Bacteria thrive in heated conditions and brushing before bed can prevent them from accumulating on teeth. Remember that the most important part of brushing anybody’s teeth is the mechanical motion of the toothbrush bristles removing bacteria and not toothpaste itself.

Some other effective ways to prevent bacteria from building in your child’s mouth include avoiding drinking sugary juices and carbonated drinks, particularly right before bed. When considering snacks for your child after a visit to the dentist, it is important to keep nutritional content in mind and how it may affect your kids’ teeth.

According to the AAPD, carrots and celery can offer an extra brush while snacking on them. Now, it’s not uncommon to think your child doesn’t like vegetables. This is where getting creative, like cutting vegetables into different shapes or incorporating them into meals where they are indistinguishable can help.

Moreover, leafy greens like spinach, kale, and broccoli help the body produce saliva that can help keep the mouth clean. It is also important to remember the importance of aiding your child while they brush their teeth.

Day to day, it can be hard to remember the joys and distractions of being a child, when we were all kids at some point. But, if you were anything like me, then you were not the best at brushing your teeth. Unknowingly, lack of understanding the importance of oral health as a child led to bad oral health in my early adolescent years.

At my first appointment with a dentist, they taught me how and where to focus my efforts when cleaning my mouth. The problem that I faced was a lack of knowledge transfer from parents to child. My parents had poor oral hygiene and did not enforce or encourage much time to oral care. I knew to brush my teeth, but I did not understand why.
Therefore, it is important to take the time to teach your child about the joy of performing good oral hygiene.

Children that are taught to enjoy cleaning their teeth by creating a fun environment around the entire event, which can remove the fear and anxiety sometimes associated with dental-related activities.

The AAPD recommends you brush your child’s teeth twice a day for at least 2 minutes when they are 2-5 years old to create the habit for when they get old enough to do it on their own. Before 2 years of age, it is also important to brush newly erupted teeth, or teeth that just came out of the gums, along with the surrounding area, especially before bed.

In summation, teaching kids about oral hygiene by removing fear or confusion from oral health, encouraging good snack habits, and understanding how oral health issues are caused will help you, the parent, keep your child happier by reducing stress when visiting the dentist.
For more information, please contact your local dentist, ask the 86th Dental Squadron, or go to AAPD.org.