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Start Early for Good Oral Health Habits

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Posted: Monday, February 24, 2014 1:00 am | Updated: 3:32 am, Mon Feb 24, 2014.

(Family Features) You may wonder whether it's important to take care of your child's first teeth, which will fall out in early childhood. However, healthy adult teeth start with healthy teeth during childhood. That's why starting infants off with good oral care can help protect their teeth for decades to come.

A baby's 20 primary teeth are already present in the jaw at birth. Baby teeth that begin coming through the gums around six months help set the stage for future smiles by keeping space in the jaw for adult teeth. The American Dental Association recommends that parents take children to a dentist no later than their first birthday and then at intervals recommended by their dentist.

To help ensure you are well prepared to provide your little one a lifetime of good dental health, the experts at Ameritas offer this information about the leading oral health concerns for youngsters:

Cavities. Early childhood caries (cavities) is the number one chronic disease affecting young children. It is five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever. Tooth pain keeps many children home from school or distracts them from learning.

Consumption of sugary foods, soda, juice or energy drinks increases the risk for tooth decay and gum disease, so minimizing these items is an important aspect of dental health. It's also important to always brush teeth twice daily for two minutes and floss once a day.

Another option to protect children's teeth is sealants, which act as barriers to cavity-prone areas. They are applied to the chewing surfaces of the molars after the teeth erupt and are completely above the gum. Both primary and permanent teeth can benefit from sealants.

Sports Injuries. Mouth guards can help protect children from a dental emergency. They should be worn whenever children participate in sports and recreational activities. Mouth guards cushion blows that can otherwise cause broken teeth, injuries to the lips and face, and even jaw fractures. Mouth guards are available at many retail stores or may be custom-made by a dentist.

Jaw and bite problems. Malocclusion, or bad bite, is a condition in which the teeth are crowded, crooked, out of alignment or the jaws don't meet properly. This may become particularly noticeable between ages six and 12, when a child's permanent teeth are developing.

If not treated early, a bad bite can make it difficult to keep teeth and gums clean where teeth are crooked or crowded, increasing the risk for cavities and gum disease. Bad bites can also affect proper jaw development, making protruding teeth at risk for chips and fractures. It can also affect eating and speaking, and make some teeth more likely to wear abnormally or faster than those that are properly aligned.

Teaching children good oral hygiene habits early is a simple way to create a lifetime of happy, healthy smiles. Remember, modeling your own good oral hygiene habits not only reinforces your advice, it improves your own dental health.

For more information on children's dental health visit the dental section at www.ameritasinsight.com, where you also can find out how recent health care reforms affect dental insurance.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

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