Dental care is important for all members of your family, no matter their age. Here are five easy tips to help promote healthy oral care in your family.
You and your family’s oral health routine should involve brushing twice a day. Regular brushing helps prevent the build-up of plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that develops after sugary and starchy foods are consumed. Plaque causes gum disease and contains bacteria that promote tooth decay. Children and adults are both susceptible to tooth decay.
Flossing once is a day is also recommended, even for children. Cleaning between your teeth with dental floss removes hard-to-reach food particles and plaque. Clearing away food debris and plaque around teeth also helps to prevent gums becoming infected as well as tooth decay. After 24 to 36 hours, plaque hardens into tartar, a substance that can only be removed by your dentist – regular brushing and flossing doesn’t allow plaque the chance to transform into tartar.
- Use the right teeth cleaning equipment
Soft-bristled toothbrushes are recommended over medium or hard varieties to help protect tooth enamel and gums. Toothbrushes should be changed regularly, at least every couple of months or sooner if the bristles start to splay and wear out. A worn toothbrush does not clean as adequately as needed to prevent tooth decay and gum disease (gingivitis).
The rotating head of an electric toothbrush provides an effective way of cleaning teeth, especially for children who often like the novelty of it. Some recent studies have indicated that brushing with an electric toothbrush is more beneficial to reduce the plaque and lessen the risk of gingivitis compared to manual toothbrushes.
The use of fluoride toothpaste can be beneficial for all members of the family over the age of three. This mineral is naturally found in water, soil and some foods. Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay and repair enamel. If children are exposed to an appropriate amount of fluoride at a young age (between three and six), fluoride will become incorporated into the development of their permanent teeth.
- Visit the dentist together
An important part of maintaining good oral health is regular dental appointments. A child’s first visit should be around their first birthday or within six months of their first tooth erupting. Your family dentist can provide information to help parents care for their children’s first teeth and encourage good oral health from the very beginning.
To promote a positive relationship with the dentist and dental care, it is a good idea to make the first visit a routine check-up rather than treatment for a serious problem or dental emergency. Regular check-ups early on in a child’s life helps reduce anxiety and negative associations with dentistry. Consider taking young children to your own appointments to normalize the visits.
- Make sure your brushing technique is correct
Most people understand the need for daily tooth brushing, but the actual technique can often be neglected. Ideally taking place after each meal and using a small pea-size amount of toothpaste, proper tooth brushing should take at least two minutes. With children, consider using a stopwatch to make the process fun and ensure they are brushing long enough.
To properly brush teeth use short, gentle strokes focusing on one of two teeth at a time. Pay attention to the gum-line and allow bristles to reach into spaces between the teeth in addition to the grooves and crevices. Scrubbing side-to-side with firm pressure can damage tooth enamel and gums. Your toothbrush should be held at a 45-degree angle to the gums for the most effective brushing. Ask your family dentist for more tooth brushing and flossing techniques.
- Cut down on sugary snacks
An easy way to help prevent tooth decay in your family is to reduce the amount of snacking and the type of foods you snack on. Consuming foods and drinks with a high sugar and starch content between meals is far more damaging to teeth than consuming them with a meal. Foods with high sugars and starches cause bacteria in the mouth to produce acid. This acid attacks tooth enamel, causing tooth decay and cavities.
Snacking exposes your mouth to many acid attacks throughout the day. Reducing snacking can therefore lessen the amount of exposure to potential tooth decay. Choose healthier snack alternatives such as fruit, vegetables and cheese. Sugary and starchy foods are better consumed during a meal, when more saliva is produced to break down the resulting acids.
Small changes in lifestyle can make a big impact on your family’s oral health. Brushing teeth regularly with the right technique and equipment can make a big difference in preventing decay and disease. Changing snacking habits and visiting your family dentist regularly are lifestyle changes with a positive effect on oral health, for everyone in your family.
For more information please contact Cochrane dentist office at 403.932.2060.