Although the majority of parents surveyed realized that kids who don’t take care of their teeth properly are at greater risk of oral pain, fewer understood the link between poor oral health and overall health. But tooth decay can be associated with other diseases such as diabetes, obesity and even heart disease. In addition, tooth loss before the age of 35 may be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.
Prevention is Simple
Only 40 percent of parents surveyed—and 62 percent of parents with kids age 5 or younger—said they regularly help their kids brush their teeth or check to make sure they’ve done a good job. But the simplest way to prevent oral disease is by making sure kids brush their teeth twice a day—and since most kids can’t handle the toothbrush by themselves until they are 4 or 5, parents need to help them until they develop the skill necessary to brush by themselves. After that time, supervising your children to make sure they’re doing a thorough job is advised.
The CDC recommends kids begin using toothpaste with fluoride when they’re two years old—but just a pea-sized dab is fine. (If kids under six swallow too much fluoride, they may develop white spots in their teeth.)
In addition to brushing, flossing daily helps remove food particles that toothbrushes can’t get to. Limiting sugary snacks is also important, especially in small children. Sending your baby to bed with a bottle is a mistake, as the sugar from the liquid can pool around their teeth, attracting bacteria which produces acids that damage teeth and lead to tooth decay.
If your kids are under the age of two, you can actually help prevent tooth decay before they even have teeth. Dentists recommend removing cavity-causing bacteria by wiping your baby’s gum with a damp washcloth.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children see a dentist when they get their first tooth, or on their first birthday—whichever comes first.