Tooth Decay Starts at Home: How to Correct Bad Oral Hygiene Habits in Kids
Tooth decay is one of the most common oral health issues, and while it can affect anyone at any age, kids are at higher risk of developing it, especially if there is a lack of proper oral hygiene habits at home. That’s right—much of what your little ones do and eat every day can put them at risk of tooth decay, which is why it’s important to get them to brush and floss early on, as well as maintain healthy eating habits.
As kids grow up, it becomes increasingly difficult to monitor where they are and what they’re doing —and that includes taking care of their pearly whites on their own. That’s why it may still come as a surprise to parents when their kids develop tooth decay. But there’s no need to worry, here are some helpful quick tips to help you spot deteriorating oral hygiene and tooth decay in your kids.
Here’s our guide to oral hygiene, eating, and drinking behaviours of kids that you need to look out for, so you can help them maintain strong and healthy teeth whether they’re at home or on their own.
Skipping Out on Brush Time
The number one cause of tooth decay is lack of proper brushing and flossing. Kids who grow up without regular brushing and flossing are at risk of developing tooth decay at a much faster rate, since bacteria and cavities from food deposits and plaque formation accumulate over the years. Aside from tooth decay, kids who don’t brush their teeth regularly can suffer from bad breath, gum disease, and a lifetime of oral health issues down the line. Bad breath alone can cause negative experiences in childhood, as this can make kids prone to bullying and self-esteem issues.
How to Get Your Kids to Brush Their Teeth
Parents are usually advised to begin softly brushing their kids’ teeth as soon as their first tooth erupts, or clean their mouths as they start teething and eating solids. Once most of their kids’ teeth have grown in, it’s important for parents to brush them after meals, while slowly teaching them how to do it themselves. A good rule of thumb to remember is, if your kid is learning to tie their shoelaces, they should be able to brush their teeth properly. To ease them into the process, you can use child-friendly toothpastes with fluoride components until they can get accustomed to the “adult” toothpaste that you use. It’s important to incorporate brush time in their daily routine, starting with reminders after meals, and even packing an oral hygiene kit for them to bring to school or during long days out.
Brushing, But Not Flossing
With brushing comes flossing, but unfortunately a lot of kids are only doing half of this duo. No matter how well your kids brush their teeth and keep up with a regular schedule, tooth decay can still occur if they don’t floss. Flossing is important as toothbrushes can’t always clean in between the deep grooves of the teeth to remove stubborn food particles. This extra step keeps plaque levels at bay and avoids the development of cavities and tooth decay.
Get Your Kids to Floss
Kids usually don’t take to flossing very quickly, as the sensation of running a string of floss between the teeth can be weird and uncomfortable. But by setting an example and easing them into doing it themselves, you can save them from a lifetime of plaque buildup and tooth decay.
To start flossing, teach your kids to use the finger that they are most comfortable with, such as the index finger, to wrap one end of the floss around. Then, take the loose end with the same finger on the other hand. The simplest way to start flossing is to get them to think of a sawing motion. Ask your kids to wrap the floss around the tooth then slowly move it up and down to remove morsels of food as well as plaque. Make sure that they get to all of their teeth. Remind them to be gentle and slowly ease the floss between teeth to avoid discomfort and prevent the gums from bleeding.
Swap Out the Sugar
There’s a reason that sugary foods and drinks like chocolate and soda are always kept out of reach from kids—chances are, you also grew up this way. Sugar and acid are the number one enemy of teeth, as they are the biggest cause of tooth decay, especially without proper oral hygiene. While a lot of parents limit chocolate and candy intake anyway, it’s important to instill consistent healthy eating habits as early as possible.
Here’s what your kids should be eating to avoid tooth decay and achieve strong and healthy teeth:
- Fruits and vegetables: some parents struggle with getting kids to eat their greens and fruits, but incorporating fruits and vegetables in their diet from an early age keeps them strong and healthy. This includes their teeth. As an added benefit, eating greens regularly stimulates saliva production.
- Lean protein: meat, fish, eggs, and poultry provide the body with phosphorus that is necessary to strengthen tooth enamel. Lean protein also replenishes minerals in teeth.
- Dairy: dairy-rich foods such as milk and cheese increase protein and calcium in kids’ growing bodies. These are essential for strengthening teeth.
With a healthy diet also comes regular water intake. Make sure that your kids not only get the recommended number of glasses throughout the day, but especially during meals and following sugary foods.
While we think it’s normal to share utensils and food with kids, this can actually put them at higher risk for tooth decay. This happens because saliva transmits oral bacteria. This is especially harmful for kids as they are just starting to build good oral hygiene and adult mouths have already seen a much higher amount of bacteria in their lifetime.
These habits can be corrected simply by avoiding kissing kids on the lips, especially when you haven’t cleaned your mouth, as well as cleaning items like soothers or utensils by licking them. In their teenage years, it’s important to watch out for habits that can harm oral health, such as smoking or oral piercings.
Visit Your Family Dentist
At Dawson Dental, we believe that maintaining oral health is a family affair. That’s why we encourage parents to bring in their kids for their first checkup and cleaning as early as possible. This allows our dentists to monitor their progress, spot signs of tooth decay early on, and restore strong and healthy teeth before the damage worsens. Plus, we can provide expert tips for easing your kids into good oral hygiene habits, so you can have more confidence in their at-home routine.
Dawson Dental takes a proactive approach to kids’ oral health. With regular checkups and dental cleanings, our dentists can help prevent tooth decay. Call us at 1-877-308-8105 or contact us here to book an appointment.