I took my son to the dentist this morning. I was pleased — but not surprised — to learn that he has no cavities. But it got me thinking about what could happen. He’s been cavity-free for all of his eight years, but could things change? It depends a great deal on the sorts of habits we encourage now.
Factors that Influence Healthy Teeth
It is important to understand what factors influence the health of your child’s teeth. Giving your child a good start now can put him or her on the path to better oral hygiene, preventing some of the common dental problems, and preventing some of the health issues that can arise in relation to poor oral hygiene.
The factors that are most likely to influence the health of your child’s teeth include:
- Heredity: Genetic factors can influence how your child’s teeth develop, and also influence the quality of the saliva that helps keeps destructive acids from settling on teeth. The good news, though, is that you can help offset some of the hereditary issues.
- Diet: What your child eats can make a big difference in how well his or her teeth hold up against the ravages of tooth decay. Obviously, processed, sugary snacks and drinks are to be discouraged. There are also foods, rich in calcium and vitamin D, that can help your child’s teeth develop in a healthy — and strong — manner.
- Cleaning: And, of course, your child’s teeth are cared for makes a difference. Start cleaning your child’s teeth early on, and make sure that your child grows up brushing at least twice a day. Regular visits to the dentist are helpful as well.
Tips for Caring for Your Child’s Teeth
One of the most important things you can do is evaluate the way your child eats. It is known that calcium strengthens bones and teeth, and Vitamin D is an important part of that. To build up healthy teeth that are less likely to be susceptible to cavities, your child needs calcium and Vitamin D. Your child should also be limited in the amount of sugary treats eaten. And, while you might like providing juice, relying too much on juice for your child can increase the chance of cavities. Try to focus on vegetables and fruits for snacks, rather than packaged, processed, starchy foods.
You should help your child clean his or her teeth. Brushing in the morning and at night is a good start. You should also brush after snacks, when possible. I am trying to remember to have my son brush his teeth after the snack he eats when he gets home from school, in addition to brushing before school and before bed. It is also worth noting that if your child is still taking naps, brushing before these times is a good idea, since saliva production is reduced. Acids from snacks or juice consumed just before nap time can attack teeth at this time. Brushing can help you avoid that.
You should help your child brush and floss when he or she is younger, and make it a habit. Children who are used to it can make the transition to taking care of their own teeth with more ease when it is part of the daily routine. Taking your child to the dentist regularly is also important. Many dentists recommend that you visit every six months. My son goes every six months, since I like him to get a good cleaning and to keep an eye on what might be developing problems. However, I only go to the dentist once a year (I’ve never had a cavity), and I expect that we’ll reduce the frequency of my son’s visits as he ages.
In the end, I hope that helping my son develop strong, healthy teeth will prevent other health issues down the road.