Oral health is important for people of all ages, but especially for young children. From the time a child is born, there are things you can do to promote healthy teeth and prevent cavities. Oral hygiene should always be encouraged and practiced, especially in the early care environment. According to the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC), dental decay is one of the most common chronic infectious diseases among U.S. children. It is also one of the most preventable. While most children are taught by at least one of their early care providers to take proper care of their teeth and gums, it's crucial for continued reinforcement.
Oral health problems begin at an early age for many children. According to CDC statistics, 28 percent of children between ages 2 and 5 years have already had decay in their primary teeth (baby teeth). By the age of 11, approximately half of all children have experienced tooth decay, and by age 17 that number rises as high as 78 percent of all children. Tooth decay may result in persistent pain, speech problems, weight loss, and undernourishment. These problems can greatly reduce a child's ability to succeed in school. For some children, tooth decay can also cause psychological harm, since children with tooth decay may often feel embarrassed about their teeth. The daily pain as well as the social stigma can distract children from their most important responsibilities: play and exploration.
So, what can you do to maintain a healthy focus on oral hygiene? Numerous techniques exist to motivate young children to practice good oral hygiene, and many of these recommendations involve music. Songs provide a distraction to entertain children, develop a dependable routine, and promote a timeframe for how long each child should brush. The CDC recommends teeth to be brushed at least twice a day for a minimum of two minutes each time, which is roughly the length of many children's songs.
Finally, proper nutrition is a key aspect of successful oral hygiene. When choosing a snack, be on the lookout for added sugar or artificial sweeteners. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends children age 3 and over consume no more than 12.5 tsp. each day of added sugar. Harmful oral bacteria feed on the sugar to create acids that destroy the tooth enamel, and eventually lead to cavities. On the other hand, products high in calcium, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt, are recommended for establishing a healthy oral hygiene at a young age. Fruits and vegetables are also beneficial in maintaining healthy teeth and gums!
Promoting proper dental hygiene and long-term care habits in early childhood should be a part of every provider's curriculum. Oral care must be taught to children at a young age in order to create good lifelong habits. Research shows that children appreciate structure and routine, which supports the incorporation of an oral hygiene routine both at home and in child care settings.