Why dental hygiene should begin in toddlerhood

Fran Jorgensen Photography

By Kylee Harris

Around 42% of children aged two to eleven have had cavities in their primary teeth, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. The good news is that overall, cavity rates have declined significantly since the 1970s. The bad news is that rates are still too high. Moreover, they are particularly prevalent in black and Hispanic kids, and those growing up in low-income households. Because cavities can appear as soon as teeth do, it is vital for dental hygiene to begin in the baby and toddler years. Doing so will prevent decay, but also help children adopt healthy practices, seeing them as an important part of their daily routine

Good dental health begins with nutrition 

Tooth decay is caused by an array of factors, particularly the buildup of bacteria in the mouth. Frequent snacking (especially on carbohydrate/sugar-rich foods) and drinking frequently from a sippy cup with juice inside can cause bacteria to build up on tooth surfaces and along the gum line.

Toddlers often get hungry between mealtimes, so it’s important to get them interested in a wide array of healthy snacks so they do not develop a taste for refined and sweet snacks.

It is easy to make the mistake of missing out on offering children new health foods because they have no interest in them. In fact, parents should present toddlers with the same foods every so often, since tastes can change in a matter of weeks, or even days. Yummy snacks to feed them include small, soft pieces of fruit, cheese slices and yogurt. Opt for unsweetened snacks if possible, so toddlers begin to appreciate tart (as opposed to sweet) flavours sooner rather than later. 

Early visits to the dentist are key 

Sometimes, inspection of your baby’s teeth may not reveal caries that may nevertheless be hidden beneath the gum line. This is why a visit to the dentist when your child is still a baby is so important. In a survey of American children’s oral health commissioned by Delta Dental, it was found that most toddlers are not taken to the dentist until they are aged 2.6 years old. In fact, The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children undertake their first dental visit by the age of one or within six months after the first tooth has erupted. Usually, a baby’s first tooth emerges at the age of around six months.  

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