For hundreds of years the tooth fairy has traded gifts for baby teeth left under pillows while children sleep. Unfortunately, the tooth fairy does not take bacteria or infection that the cavity may have left behind. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that one out of 10 2-year-olds are already infected with at least one cavity.
From the time a child is born, plaque can build up on the gums. Plaque is formed from the combination of acid, saliva and bacteria present in the mouth. While a baby’s teeth are not yet visible, an environment of bacteria sets the stage for poor oral health once the teeth begin to grow in. Children are born with their teeth developed below the gum line and, according to the American Dental Association, decay can begin as soon as a tooth appears. Unlike adults, a child gets a “second chance” with his teeth, but just because children’s primary teeth fall out and are replaced does not mean that care for the first set should be neglected.
Cavities lead to tooth decay and even tooth loss, as a result of bacteria left in the mouth. They are also contagious; meaning that a cavity in a primary tooth can easy spread to a neighboring permanent tooth. An infection in the root of a primary tooth may spread to the upcoming permanent tooth. Even more serious, premature tooth loss can cause long term problems for a child’s oral health.
Establishing good habits with children at a young age is crucial for ensuring future oral hygiene. It’s encouraged for persons of all ages to brush and floss twice a day. Kids need to understand that brushing and flossing is not a “chore,” but a chance to protect their teeth and overall health.
Challenges with getting kids to brush their teeth
The biggest enemies of tooth-brushing for kids are sugary snacks. Packed with sugars that promote plaque and tooth decay, their consumption counteracts the efforts of tooth-brushing. Forming the habit of brushing is also a challenge because kids may become frustrated for many reasons. Brushing can feel like a chore, especially when they’re being forced to do it twice a day. If a child doesn’t like the taste of his toothpaste he certainly won’t be eager to brush, especially if he is using too much. For a kid-sized mouth, only a drop of toothpaste the size of a pea is needed. Too much will result in excess froth, and a mess all over the bathroom counter.
How can I get my kids to brush their teeth?
Most kids don’t get excited to brush their teeth, and parents can have a hard time obtaining cooperation. Kids will be kids, so make brushing fun! Try turning the task into a game or using a reward system to generate excitement. Let kids pick out their own toothbrush at the store so that they feel some ownership with their own brush. Also choose “kid-friendly” toothpaste. Many types of toothpaste that adults use may be too spicy for little taste buds, so choose bubblegum or another flavored kid’s paste. For a complete guide and tips for caring for teeth at all ages, check out the Mom’s Guide to caring for little teeth.