There are so many things to consider and be mindful of as your child develops and grows. But one of the things that dentists urge parents is to start early when thinking about the proper development of your child’s teeth. Habits are instilled from the cradle, and the later you start, the harder it will be. So here are some things to keep in mind as your child’s teeth develop.
Children do what their parents do, not necessarily what their parents say. So it’s important that if you want your child’s teeth to develop well, growing up with good dental habits, you yourself should have good oral health. Some good dental habits to get into would be:
- Brushing twice a day
- Brushing with the right technique (not too hard; not straight after eating or drinking as some foods/drinks are acidic)
- Replacing your toothbrush every 3-4 months
- Flossing daily
- Flossing with the right technique
- Going to the dentist twice a year
- Maintaining a healthy diet (foods and drinks that naturally whiten your teeth can be a bonus)
Helping your kids brush and floss consistently is incredibly important in their dental development. Children’s manual dexterity does not mature until (on average) nine years old. As a result, you will still need to help your children brush their teeth until they are nine or 10 years old.
Children at around six years old get their first adult/permanent teeth (i.e. the first molars as well as their front central incisors). The first molars are generally the ones that need large fillings, root canal therapy or extraction later on because they are not cared for in childhood. So it is very important for you to help your child brush and floss while they are still younger than nine years old.
You can encourage your child to take a more proactive approach to their oral hygiene by teaching them to brush and floss their teeth first, and then you can go over their teeth again afterwards.
Your child can use a children’s electric toothbrush as long as they have soft bristles with a “gentle motion” setting. Otherwise keep using soft-bristled children’s manual toothbrushes.
Flosser picks/dental sticks are still an option but as the child grows older, it is important to start encouraging them to use regular floss. Ask your dentist to demonstrate the correct flossing technique to your child if they are unsure.
Regular checks and cleans with your dentist (once every six months) will definitely improve your child’s oral health. Your dentist will also be able to detect any issues early on, including any gum disease or tooth decay, as well as any developmental abnormalities (such as an uneven bite). The dentist will advise you on how to help treat/manage your child’s dental development.
Long-term thumb sucking can negatively impact the dental progress of your child. The more intense or aggressive your child’s thumb sucking is, the more it will likely damage your child’s development. It can lead to an overbite, open bite, reshaping your child’s upper jaw, even hinder the development of the palate and tongue (potentially forming a lisp).
Identify when and why your child is sucking their thumb or fingers. Every child is different therefore every child’s reason for sucking their thumb will be different. If your child sucks their thumb as a form of stimulation when they’re bored, show them an alternative to entertain or stimulate themselves. If it is used as a means of comfort, encourage bonding with a special toy or cuddle them until they calm down.
Detect Developmental Delays
Always be mindful of how your child’s mouth is developing. We’ve mentioned it above, but look for anything abnormal in their jawline, the shape of the arch of their teeth, how and when teeth are erupting, and also if you child has any trouble swallowing, chewing, or breathing. If you notice anything peculiar or abnormal, you should consult your dentist and ask them for their diagnosis.
Sporting A Mouth Guard
Mouth guards are essential with any contact sport as the chances for trauma to the mouth are heightened. Your dentist can make relatively inexpensive tailored mouth guards for your child which will protect them from any serious oral injury.
Tooth Fairy Visits
You should know what to do when your child starts losing their baby/milk teeth. This is obviously a normal part of growing up and your child may be excited about the profit they’ll make from the tooth fairy, but when it first happens, it may be a bit bizarre or even scary for both you and your child.
When their first baby tooth starts feeling loose (around six years of age), encourage your child to start wiggling it and pushing it with their tongue. This helps loosen the tooth and speeds up the process to allow the permanent tooth to take its place.
Reassure your child that it’s ok when the baby tooth does fall out; this is a normal part of growing up. If they are experiencing pain or discomfort, it should settle down soon afterwards. If there is any bleeding, get your child to swish a bit of warm water in their mouths.
Last but not least, getting your child to eat healthily is important, obviously not just for their teeth but their whole body. Lots of water, fruits (like strawberries and apples), fibrous veggies (like celery and cauliflower), dairy, and nuts are great for your child’s dental development.