Oral Health for Children: The Role of Parents and Dental Professionals

Parents and dental professionals play a critical role in teaching children effective dental hygiene, which is essential to their overall health and well-being. With the new school year now underway across the country, parents, hygienists, and dentists can work together to ensure children have as few school absences as possible related to dental health issues.

On average, children miss approximately 2 school days per year due to dental problems, and these children are also more likely to have lower grade point averages, according to a study by the American Journal of Public Health. Tooth decay is one of the most common chronic diseases to affect children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If left untreated, tooth decay can lead to dire consequences that include difficulties related to eating, speaking, and learning.

Working together to successfully set children on the road to exceptional oral health, parents and dental professionals will not only ensure that kids are healthy and have a great smile, but they will also help reduce school absences and boost academic performance.

At Home, Set Good Habits and Create a Daily Routine

Parents can instill proper dental hygiene habits that will last a lifetime by starting as soon as a child’s first tooth emerges and building a daily brushing and flossing routine. Establishing good oral health habits at an early age increases an individual's likelihood of better overall well-being. Poor oral health can lead to other illnesses such as cardiovascular diseases, pneumonia, and pregnancy complications.

As parents oversee a child’s daily oral care at home, dentists and hygienists also apply various techniques and approaches for pediatric dentistry to instruct children about oral hygiene.

Among the steps at home, moms and dads can lead by example by ensuring their kids see them brushing their teeth and flossing regularly. It’s also important to choose age-appropriate toothpaste and toothbrushes – up until a child is two years old, toothpaste should be fluoride-free and soft-bristle toothbrushes are best. Parents can start using a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste from ages two through six.

Putting an oral care routine in place and supervising brushing and flossing at an early age are also key steps in the process to establish good oral hygiene habits. Sometimes, to generate more enthusiasm about brush time, it’s helpful to have kids bring a favorite toy into the bathroom, allow them to do so while watching programming even with just a wet brush, or plan a fun activity to occur after brushing, such as a game or reading a story. Additionally, good oral health habits aren’t limited to hygiene routines: parents must pay close attention to their kids’ diets and set limits on sugary snacks and drinks.

It's also essential that during dentist visits, parents consult with their child’s dental care provider to stay apprised of any issues and to set up regularly scheduled check-ups throughout the year.

For Dental Providers, Educational Tools and Communication Skills are Crucial

For dental professionals, various approaches to pediatric dentistry include educational tools, visual aids, and interactive activities. Dentists and hygienists can also create a positive rapport with children when talking with them by using age-appropriate language that they can understand.

Using easy-to-understand language in tandem with models to demonstrate proper brushing and flossing techniques, dental professionals can make the experience as stress-free as possible for young patients.

For children who may be fearful of trips to the dentist, it can be helpful to incorporate interactive activities such as games or quizzes to put them at ease and make learning about oral hygiene a more engaging experience for children. Allowing children to participate during the cleaning and having them select their flavors makes the experience more interactive and fun for the child. Prevention is key to helping children with dental care using fluorides, sealants, and remineralization therapies, as most cavities can be repaired when treated early. 

Dentists should also consult with parents to ensure they are aware of their role in their child’s oral health and to guide them on the best at-home practices. If there are issues such as tooth decay, sensitivity, or gum disease, it may be necessary to adjust the frequency of check-ups to address the problem and develop an effective treatment plan.

As parents, dentists, and hygienists work to ensure children have excellent oral and overall health, it’s important to note that teaching dental hygiene is an ongoing process that evolves. By setting up good habits and routines at home and engaging in the learning process at the dentist’s office, children can develop good oral health practices that will last a lifetime.

Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.