A child is full of potential- the potential to learn, to explore, to develop. This potential is also inherent in the way they grow, which involves everything from their ability to fight diseases to the strength of their teeth.
Eating the right foods and practicing the right habits have always been part and parcel of good health, but what are the best methods to prevent childhood tooth decay and tooth loss?
Step 1: Good oral hygiene.
It may seem simple but this is the cornerstone of any healthy smile and it should start as soon as possible, even when the teeth haven’t yet erupted.
Dental professionals recommend cleaning the gums of babies with soft wet gauze or a washcloth during cleaning time. This will prevent any bacteria from affecting the gums and, as it is hard to determine when the milk teeth will actually come through, it will also stop any bacteria entering the newly ruptured gums.
Once the teeth have started to appear (usually around 6 months) begin using a small, soft- headed toothbrush with a tiny amount of child’s fluoride toothpaste. Clean their teeth twice a day and if they are comfortable, brush their tongue as well.
As they grow
This twice daily tooth brushing should continue from then on and for an added level of cleanliness start using dental floss as soon as two teeth have grown side by side. Your child may need some help to do this, but encouraging them to use floss from an early age will turn the practice into a habit they take with them into adult life. Once they reach the age of 8-9 you can also incorporate children’s mouthwash into their oral hygiene routine for a comprehensive level of dental hygiene.
Step 2: Foods for strong healthy teeth
Dental hygiene takes care of the outside of your child’s teeth, to prevent infection entering the inside and causing dental decay, but what helps your child’s tooth grow strong and healthy in the first place and what can keep them that way?
Foods are literally the body’s building blocks and to make good, strong and healthy bodies, you need good, strong and healthy foods.
For great dental health these are the foods you should be feeding your child.
This is, of course, at the top of the dental health food list, as your calcium rich teeth could do very little without calcium rich dairy foods. Diary food can come in a range of products from natural yoghurt, cheese and a good old-fashioned glass of milk. Full-fat milk will provide the optimum level of nutrients to help your child’s teeth grow healthy and strong and has been shown by numerous studies, including those conducted by the Weston A Price Foundation, to be more beneficial to your overall health than heated and processed semi and skimmed milk.
Foods such as eggs, beef and chicken are all high in phosphorus, which calcium likes to combine with to produce healthy teeth. Protein helps build up the strength of your child’s teeth and decrease the chance of decay.
Fruit and vegetables
No healthy diet would be complete without fruits and vegetables and although many contain a high acid content, which can harm the dental enamel of teeth if consumed in large amounts, your teeth can find much benefit from a diet high in vegetables and fruits. Some of the best fruits and vegetables for your teeth include:
- Broccoli-are high in vitamin A, which is intrinsic to dental enamel production.
- Pumpkin- high in vitamin A.
- Carrots-high in vitamin A.
- Onions-contain anti-bacterial compounds, which prevents the spread of bacteria to the teeth and gums.
- Celery-raw celery helps to massage gums and clean teeth and also promotes saliva production, which washes away cavity-causing bacteria.
- Kiwi fruit-are high in vitamin C, which helps promote strong and healthy gums.
- Bananas-are an ideal sweet treat, as they are rich in vitamins and nutrients, but do not stick to the teeth.
- Watermelons- are high in vitamin C and also anti-oxidants, helping to enhance the health of the gums.
Including water in your child’s diet will not only aid in the health of their body, but will also help cleanse and hydrate the mouth and gums for excellent dental health. Drinking water after a meal can prevent food particles sticking between the teeth leading to plaque and decay and drinking water after eating healthy, yet acidic fruit can neutralize the enamel eroding properties of the acid, so you can benefit from the nutrients of the fruit, without suffering acid erosion.
Foods are essential to providing your child’s teeth with the nutrients they need to grow and develop. A full range of foods is always the best way to ensure that your child’s teeth and body receive all the nutrients they needs, but there are other diet related tips, which can ensure your child’s teeth have the best start, including:
- Removing sugar from their diet: Plaque bacteria love sugar and they will love your child’s mouth if it full of sticky and sugary foods. Once they have made short work of the sugar they will attack your child’s teeth and after eating their way through the enamel will destroy the dentin and enter the dental pulp chamber. Once this has occurred there are only two options: root canal treatment or tooth extraction, both of which are uncomfortable and painful treatments. Removing sugar from your child’s diet may be hard, but you could start by locating and removing products with hidden sugar such as that found in certain breakfast cereals. Encouraging your child to drink water throughout the day will also help prevent the effect of sugar on the teeth, by cleansing and cleaning the mouth.
- Remove processed food from their diet and stop the development of eating disorders: The damage processed food and eating disorders can inflict upon your child’s overall and dental health are similar in that they both limit the amount of nutrients the body receives. This nutrient deficiency causes the body to draw calcium from the bones, which greatly weakens them and can lead to dangerous conditions like osteoporosis. Ensuring that your child’s diet contains all of the food groups including fats, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals and removing processed foods will ensure that your child receives all the nutrients they need. To prevent eating disorders from occurring combine this diet with daily exercise. This can be as little as walking for 30 minutes a day, but by maintaining the healthy weight or your child and promoting a love of healthy food from a young age can help them avoid eating disorders like anorexia.
Maintaining the health of your child’s teeth will provide the ideal foundation for your child’s future dental health. Tooth loss problems in childhood often follow them into adulthood, and then a replacement tooth won’t naturally regrow to replace the missing tooth, with dentures, bridges and dental implants the only way to fill in the gap.
Loosing teeth too early can also effective the orthodontic development of your child’s smile, as the adult tooth won’t have the guide it needs to come through straight. Many children will suffer with crooked smiles and painful braces as a result of early tooth loss.
The steps above should hopefully prevent such an occurrence and have your child smiling from their early years into adulthood.
Becky Mackay writes on a whole host of problems, including tooth loss, orthodontics and dental implants. For more information on the best practices for dental health visit her Twitter page @FreshHealth11