Why Your Child’s Dental Health is More Important Than You Realize
Did you know that problems with your child’s mouth, teeth and gums can affect the rest of their body and even their health and well-being into adulthood? Let’s take a look at how caring for your child’s mouth now can help them to lead healthier lives for many years to come.
How are oral health and overall health connected?
Oral health is essential to overall health. Good oral health improves a person’s ability to speak, smile, smell, taste, touch, chew, swallow, and make facial expressions. Poor oral health in children has been linked to poor performance in school, low self-esteem, poor social relationships and less success in later life.
Like other areas of the body, your mouth contains (mostly harmless) bacteria. Normally the body’s natural defenses and good oral health care, such as daily brushing and flossing, keep bacteria under control. Without proper oral hygiene, bacteria can reach levels that might lead to oral infections, such as tooth decay and gum disease.
Tooth decay is one of the most common chronic diseases of childhood. If left untreated, tooth decay and untreated cavities can cause pain and infections that have a serious impact on your child’s health, including problems with eating, speaking, playing and learning.
The good news is that cavities are preventable. Children who brush daily with fluoride toothpaste will have fewer cavities. Fluoridated tap water and the use of dental sealants on the chewing surfaces of back teeth are also effective in preventing cavities. Sealants and fluorides are as important in protecting against disease as immunizations.
While tooth decay and cavities are the primary concern for children, they are not the only concern. Poor oral health and habits can lead to a number of diseases as children grow into adults.
What other conditions can be linked to oral health?
The mouth is often an entry point for infections, which can spread to other parts of the body. Research indicates there are associations between chronic oral infections and health risks such as heart and lung diseases and stroke.
In turn, certain health conditions and poor diet can have an effect on oral health, ranging from eating disorders to certain cancers. One particular disease that is of concern for children is diabetes, which may affect their oral health by reducing the body’s resistance to infection. Diabetes puts the gums at risk, with more frequent and severe gum disease among people who have diabetes.
How can I protect my child’s oral health?
You can protect your child’s oral health by practicing good oral hygiene daily. This includes:
- Wiping your child’s gums after feeding and brushing new teeth with non-fluoride toothpaste (under 2 years of age).
- Brushing their teeth at least twice a day with a soft-bristled brush using fluoride toothpaste (for children older than 2 years old).
- Flossing daily once teeth begin to touch.
- Eating a healthy diet and limiting food with added sugars.
- Replacing their toothbrush every three months or sooner if bristles are splayed or worn.
- Scheduling regular dental checkups and cleanings.
Contact us at Brier Creek Pediatric Dentistry as soon as any oral health problems arise. Be sure to tell us at your next visit about any changes in your child’s overall health, especially if they’ve recently been ill, are taking any medications or have a chronic condition, such as diabetes.
Sources: Mayo Clinic, CDC, NIH, healthypeople.gov, HHS.gov