Parents are responsible for the development of their child’s oral health habits.
I naively thought that the oral health issues along children due to sugary drinks/foods is only prevalent in the UK and in the US, but that is not the case!
Visiting Estonia I met a wonderful and a kind family, where I couldn’t help but notice the front teeth of their 5-year-old, as the situation was very bad. When we met up, the child was given a big bag of candies to nibble on, which she finished soon enough. At some point I asked if they’ve been to the dentist and what does the oral treatment look like in Estonia. It turned out that they’ve been to the dentist just recently, but the child didn’t even open her mouth – the dentist saw no problems with that, but the dental examination couldn’t be done and it was left like that.
I asked parents for permission to have a look and luckily the child was ok with it as well. What I found were big cavities one couldn’t miss – I didn’t believe my eyes, as the child was only 5!
Oral health problems do not appear overnight and after looking into it I’ve learned that these issues are not hereditary (although I hear lots of excuses such as ‘everyone in our family has bad teeth’). It actually shows bad eating habits and the lack of attention and importance placed on oral hygiene. Most even don’t visit the dentist unless something hurts.
To protect your child’s teeth, an easy solution would be to cut off sweetened drinks, sugary yogurts or anything of the sorts before bedtime.
How often should one go in for a check-up?
Depending on what the dentist recommends directly, it should be once a year. But to be on the safe side, twice a year, so anything a little out of order can be discovered early and can be supervised. And if the child is afraid of the dentist – book an appointment every 3-4 months. This way, the child gets used to the dentist and will not consider them as an ‘ugly monster’ who only pulls out teeth or hurts them.
Another tip for parents whose children are afraid of the dentist – do not arrive early at the dentist office, but be just on time. This way you lessen the stress that comes by waiting and the child also won’t see other children who may come out crying.
*For the oral health of your child, don’t give them sugary drinks/yogurts or otherwise sugar-filled things before bedtime.
*First dentist appointment can be scheduled when the child has their first tooth.
*Make regular dentist appointments every 3-4 months so the child can get used to the dentist chair and with the environment.
*Have a look at the food table and remember, child’s drink is water!
*Don’t let the child brush their teeth alone, rather help them to ensure all the hard-to-reach places will get cleaned. To check how well teeth have been brushed, small tablets are sold in most pharmacies which upon breaking between their teeth turn colour – this will show which areas still need more cleaning.
*Place a sand-timer next to the sink so the child knows how long teeth must be brushed for. Make sure to get them into a habit of 2x a day. To ensure they remember to, post a piece of paper to the wall, so after every brushing session they can put a sticker on the paper for a job well done.
*Have the child with you when choosing a toothbrush, but make sure the brush is age-appropriate. And if the child does not like the usual peppermint taste, then find a different taste – our main goal is to teach good habits. But make sure they don’t like the toothpaste taste too much, as otherwise you may find the tube of paste is only enough for a couple days (seen it before)!
*Don’t scare the child and keep the horror stories of the dentist to yourself! Find a book filled with teeth-inspired delightful stories and create an interest to visit the dentist. Tell them of the fun things in the dentist office and spike their imagination on all the things that can be done and imagined.
I’ll add a Youtube video here on how diet affects teeth and what happens if not enough attention is placed on oral health – a little bit of thinking material for parents. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2EJ6_0iq7k&fbclid=IwAR2Mi-8ieVrevMEBShDJPA8HMLlCh1ryRmwPHpO3_oXUoBa1o3UOhiRLF50
Also, an article which was recently published in Estonia on oral health issues in children. https://tervis.ohtuleht.ee/976962/hambad-lagunevad-kui-palju-maksab-tegelikult-sinu-lapse-hambaravi?fbclid=IwAR26KZYChW1I9OddTdE1L9-MTmeNMi-mFcCWIvPO5QjPswBIHAD6-Fs777A
NB! Photo is from my personal collection.