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3 Tips for Keeping Your Child's Teeth and Gums Healthy

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Dental care is as important for children as it is for adults; many parents believe that wrong childhood choices will not affect the permanent teeth once they erupt, but this couldn't be further from the truth. Teaching a child good dental habits can set them up for a lifetime of responsible tooth care, as well as ensure the permanent teeth are set on 'good ground' once they erupt. This article highlights some tips to keep your child's mouth healthy throughout childhood.

1. Limit the sugar

Sugar is one of the worst enemies for your teeth; it provides a substrate for bacteria in the mouth to feed on. These bacteria produce lactic acid which slowly wears down the enamel and escalates tooth decay in children. One thing worth mentioning is that while natural sugars in breast milk, fresh juices and fruits are better than artificial sources, all sugars have this effect.

Therefore, limit the amount of sugars your child consumes, including from natural sources. Give juices as close as possible to mealtimes, as salivary production is higher and sugars can be washed off easier. Wean the child off continuous breastfeeding and/or night-time or naptime milk or juice bottles; replace with plain water if they must have a bottle.

2. Instil good oral hygiene practices

In truth, children need someone to clean their teeth properly until they are about six or eight years. As babies, wipe down their mouth with a clean piece of cloth at least twice daily, but preferably after each feeding.

Once a few teeth erupt, choose a toothbrush and toothpaste indicated for babies that age and start brushing their teeth, gums, and tongue twice daily. Use a pea-size blob of toothpaste, as they won't be spitting until much later. You can also start flossing once you've introduced fibrous foods; they should be able to do it on their own by about 8 years. Do not introduce them to mouthwash until they can spit it out, and only do so at your dentist's advice.

3. Correct malocclusions early

Improper tooth alignment can affect the position of permanent teeth, which can, in turn, affect a person's health and self-esteem way into adulthood. This is why it's important to have regular check-ups to ensure your child's jaw and teeth are developing properly. In addition, malocclusions (problems with bite and teeth alignment) are much easier to correct in childhood, while the jawbone is actively growing.

Be careful to discourage their use of the sippy-cup and pacifiers, particularly once they reach two or three years. Overusing these can permanently change the shape of the mouth and alignment of teeth, as can habits like thumb-sucking, tongue-thrusting or lip-biting. If these are stopped early enough, there will be no permanent effect on tooth alignment.