Dental Health Is Key for Kids!

Did you know the final full week of April every year is Every Kid Healthy Week? Started in 2013, this annual event celebrates achievements in health and wellness for school-aged kids. It’s also a chance to highlight how we can keep kids as healthy as possible for greater success in school and in life. Dental health is a key component of wellness for kids. Read on for tips on boosting your child’s oral health and give them the gift of wellness!

Dental Health Helps Every Kid Do Better in School

Did you know dental cavities are one of the most common chronic childhood diseases in the US according to the CDC? Nearly 30% of children aged 9-11 have active decay. 42% of children from ages 2-11 have had cavities in their baby teeth at some point. Left untreated, childhood dental decay can cause pain and infections. It can even damage permanent teeth that haven’t come in yet.

Kids with poor oral health are three times more likely to miss school due to tooth pain. Even when they are in school, pain from cavities and gum disease can be distracting, making it difficult to concentrate on schoolwork, speak in class, and even eat.

Helping kids keep their teeth and gums healthy will help keep them out of pain and give them better quality of life. It can also help prevent severe dental problems later in their lives. Investing in childhood dental health is an investment in their whole-body wellness and their school success, too!

Help Kids Have a Better Experience at the Dentist

Regular dental care is a key component of great oral health. Children need to start seeing a dentist for regular check-ups and cleanings from a young age. Some parents prefer to take their children to a pediatric dentist from the first sign of their first tooth. You might prefer to bring them to a family practice around age 3 or 4. Here at Lake Baldwin Dental, we are equipped to see children at any age. We usually recommend kids start getting regular cleanings around 3 years old. This is when kids are usually ready to have a great first experience with minimal fear. Some kids can start a bit younger, and some might need an extra year to mature before they feel comfortable. Feel free to call us for advice if you’re not sure!

No matter when your child starts coming to the dentist, you’ll want to set them up for success. Dental fear can often start with negative talk about the dentist. If you struggle with dental anxiety or have had bad dental experiences, try to avoid talking about your fear in front of your child.

The Dentist Is Not a Bad Guy!

Likewise, try to avoid using dental treatment as a threat. So many of us fall into the trap of telling kids bad things will happen if they don’t brush their teeth. “If you don’t brush you’ll get cavities and the dentist will have to give you a shot! They’ll drill on your teeth!” It feels like a good way to convince children to work with us on dental care at home. But when kids learn the dentist is a punishment for failing to brush, they come to our office afraid and anxious.

Instead, try to frame dental care in a positive light. Brushing keeps our teeth strong and healthy so we can eat our favorite foods! Flossing can help us get rid of yucky bacteria that can hurt our teeth. The dentist is a super nice person who helps our smile stay healthy and shiny.

Give Your Kids the Right Tools for Great Oral Health

There are also awesome home care tools that help engage kids in better home habits. Toothbrushes light up and make music. Sonicare even makes brushes for kids that connect to an app to gamify successful brushing! Great brushing earns points and rewards in a video game on your phone or tablet. A WaterPik can be a great alternative to flossing that’s much more comfortable for many children, too.

Be sure your child is getting a balanced, tooth-healthy diet wherever possible. Try to have them rinse with water after any sweets or sugary drinks like juice. Never put your young child to bed with a bottle of milk or juice. After brushing at night, only water should hit their teeth until the next morning!

Fluoride is an essential part of protecting your children against cavities. Orlando has fluoridated tap water, which is a huge help. Once your child can spit after brushing, you’ll want to be sure they use a good quality fluoride toothpaste daily. Even if they’re too young or not dependable about spitting, you can use a tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice), as ingesting a tiny amount won’t cause harm. If you’re nervous about your child swallowing toothpaste, look for a fluoride-free alternative that contains xylitol. Also be sure to ask about fluoride varnish after every dental cleaning!

Can You Tell If Your Child Has Healthy Teeth?

It can sometimes be difficult to tell if your child’s oral health is struggling. Kids aren’t always able to clearly communicate their pain. Dental pain can also sometimes be referred to other places, so they might not even register the problem as coming from their teeth! Keep an eye out for reluctance to eat certain foods, especially cold or crunchy foods. Changes in their comfort speaking or how much they talk can also indicate oral pain.

How to Check Your Child’s Teeth at Home

Most importantly, take a thorough look at your child’s teeth at least every few days. It can help to sit on the floor and have your child lie with their head in your lap. Use a flashlight and get help if needed to make sure you can see all areas of the mouth. This will not only let you monitor your child’s oral health, but also get them accustomed to what they’ll experience at a dental exam.

When looking for cavities, most people will look for holes or dark spots on the teeth. While these are clear signs of decay, also watch for chalky-looking bright white areas that reflect cavities starting to develop. Look for sores in the cheeks, tongue, floor of the mouth, roof of the mouth, and throat (if you can see that far back). Also check for loose teeth or signs of teeth coming in behind the very last tooth.

Watch for sores in the corners of the mouth as well. Kids get canker sores and fungal infections in and around their mouths. They also tend to fall and hit their teeth frequently. Sometimes everything will seem okay in the moment, but the tooth may develop a sore in the gums several days or even weeks later which would need attention from a dentist.

We want to help keep every kid healthy! That’s why your dental team here at LBD is always more than happy to see the youngest members of your family. Don’t hesitate to call us with any questions or concerns you may have about your child’s dental health. We want to keep kids in Orlando smiling!