Dental Health Tips for Parents and Children

a young girl at the dentist with excellent oral health

Did you know that dental health can have a big impact on a child’s overall health? Reno pediatric dentist Gilbert A Trujillo, DDS, shares why it’s important to take good care of your child’s teeth from an early age. If your child’s dental health needs help, don’t despair. Read on to learn about oral health and an important resource to help your child’s smile.

Dental health often doesn’t get the attention it deserves when it comes to kids. In fact, we may skip teeth brushing during busy mornings and flossing may be become an afterthought too, while rushing to get our children ready for bed. As parents, it’s easy to assume that our kids are young and healthy and their teeth will be okay. However, there are a lot of reasons why we should give our children’s dental health more time and thought.

Why are good dental health habits important early on?

First, parents must help their children prevent cavities. Young children do not have the fine motor skills to brush and floss by themselves. Secondly, cavities can cause pain and infection and can lead to issues with permanent teeth. Lastly, children who get cavities and abscesses from poor oral care can have difficulty chewing and eating, resulting in malnutrition. Cavities and abscesses can sometimes cause serious infections which may require hospitalization.

Many schools send children home if they are having dental pain. In fact, 17 percent of missed school days are due to dental pain. Parents or caretakers can even be reported to Child Protective Services for a child’s dental neglect.

Teaching children good dental hygiene habits by taking care of their baby teeth prepares them to care of their permanent teeth. The benefits of good dental health include:

  • Better nutrition
  • Improved overall health
  • Stronger self-esteem
  • Pain free days to enjoy school, friends and other activities

How can dental health impact a child’s overall health and social life?

Dental health plays a key role in a child’s overall health and social life. On the other hand, poor dental hygiene can negatively impact a child’s well-being by causing:

  • Difficulty chewing and eating, which can lead to malnutrition.
  • Difficulty concentrating at school, which can lead to learning challenges and poor performance.
  • Social withdrawal, poor self-esteem and embarrassment about smiling due to decayed teeth.

How often should children brush and floss their teeth?

All children, including those who need a parent’s or caretaker’s help, should brush and floss at least twice daily. Children who snack between meals or eat a lot of simple carbohydrates, (found in foods like fruit, milk, milk products, candy, syrups and soft drinks) need to brush and floss more often.

Related: Motivating Kids to Eat Healthy Foods

At what age should brushing and flossing start?

Start brushing your baby’s teeth as soon as they appear, typically around 6 months of age. Once two teeth have started to touch, parents or caretakers should floss between the teeth. This removes food stuck between the teeth and/or under the gums. Continue to help your child brush and floss until they are capable of doing it on their own. Usually this is around age nine or 10.

Do I really need to take care of baby teeth? They’re going to fall out anyway, right?

It’s important that parents take good care of their children’s baby teeth. Children who are taught the importance of taking care of their baby teeth are better prepared to take care of their adult teeth, avoiding future dental issues.

Baby teeth are kept until age 12 to 14. When care for baby teeth is neglected, it can cause severe pain and even lead to severe dental infections requiring hospitalization. Sadly, dental infections in children can even cause death, which is preventable when proper oral care is started early.

Help! My child has poor oral health and problems with their teeth. However, I can’t afford to take them to a dentist.

Northern Nevada Dental Health Programs’ “Healthy Smile Healthy Child” is a local dental resource for at-risk youth ages 18 and under. They provide no-cost to low-cost dental care to northern Nevada’s uninsured or under insured children.

For more information, call 775-982-7989 or email Monica Vazquez to find out if your child qualifies for care or apply for the program. You can also visit the Healthy Smile Healthy Child web page to learn more about about qualification and download the application.

Healthy Smile Healthy Child

This program provides no-cost to low-cost dental care for children in northern Nevada.