“The face of a child can say it all, especially mouth part of it.” Whoever coined that quote couldn’t have been more right. Children are unpredictable and have an uncanny way of taking on a bad habit. Be it sucking thumbs, chewing on to pencil butts, eating chalk, biting nails or nose picking and then putting the same finger in the mouth (Don’t Ewww, I am sure you must have done the same as a kid, or even unknowingly at times still do the same, am I right?) It goes without saying, habits that you pick up as a kid stay with you forever. But that’s not the worst part; these bad habits go a long way in ruining the dental health of your child – right from getting a bacterial infection, tooth decay to crooked teeth. Sometimes, these habits that form during infancy can create a ripple effect that won’t become noticeable until many years later. Mostly unconscious, simple habits like breathing through the mouth, tongue thrusting, and reverse swallowing, can contribute to an ongoing misalignment of the jaw and crowding of the teeth.
Though you cannot always keep a check on what habits your child will develop, there are a few preventive steps that will make sure their pearly whites remain so and grow strong.
- Brushing teeth can start from as early as 18 months: You can start cleaning your child’s teeth with a mild toothpaste having low fluoride from 18 months to 6 years of age. There are many dentists recommended toothpaste with natural ingredients specially made for kids of age 0 to 3 years like Splat by Oracura. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles to clean the teeth. Refrain from using fingers as it might hurt baby teeth and gums. Encourage children to spit out the toothpaste and not swallow or rinse it with water. A little bit of leftover fluoride keeps teeth protected.
- Good habits start with you: If you want to nurture a good habit in your kid, start one yourself. Why? Besides the fact that children tend to imitate their parents, you wouldn’t want to be caught being a hypocrite by your own kid. You never know what inconsistency they’re going to catch you in next. So if you want them to brush and floss their teeth twice a day, start doing the same yourself.
- Discourage habits like chewing on ice, nails or pencil butts, grinding teeth, breathing from in between the teeth. It is difficult to keep a check on what your kid might do outside the home but immediately stop them anytime you observe such habits.
Though baby teeth fall off eventually, they act as anchors for the permanent teeth. If these anchors are damaged, lost due to decay, trauma or other factors, it will affect the growth of the permanent teeth. Instead of having a long painful dental procedure to straighten teeth later in life, preventive measures at the right time with the right guidance is best for your kid’s dental health. We become what we repeatedly do. As easy as it is for kids to pick bad habits, similarly, it is as easy to nurture a good habit. All you need to make sure is the consistency of practice.