Imagine if we treated every temporary and replaceable aspect of our bodies as unimportant or negligible. We would rarely wash our hair, reaching for the shampoo only when the mounting grease was too much to bear. Our nails would be long, chipped and decaying, but we would rationalize their ill health by noting that, eventually, they would break off and new ones would appear. It is a disgusting and irrational thought. One that currently has me thinking about hair-washes and manicures. However, it is only a slightly distorted version of what we actually do to a different temporary part of our bodies: our teeth, specifically our baby teeth.
Tooth decay among children has risen by four percent in the past several years. Youthful mouths are filling more and more readily with bacteria, opening the door for oral infection and impaired permanent teeth. We are viewing baby teeth as replaceable and are transferring that view to our kids, who are failing to properly care for their mouths. As adults, it is our responsibility to rectify this. We have to teach our children that baby teeth, although a temporary presence, are important. We have to help them take the steps necessary to maintain oral hygiene in youth. That means starting before the children are able to do it themselves, before the teeth appear and even before the little ones are born.
While pregnant, a mother should carefully monitor her own oral health. Bacteria caused by decay could transfer from her to the baby, putting the child at a disadvantage from the start. Once born, an infant’s mouth should be cleaned after every feeding with a water-soaked washcloth and gauze pad. When the first tooth appears, brushing, with a small toothbrush and pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste, can begin, and parents can start looking for a dentist. A child should see a dental hygienist within six months of his first tooth or by his first birthday. By birthday two or three, that child should start learning proper brushing techniques; however, parental guidance will be needed until age seven or eight. Parents should also emphasize the importance of smart food choices. Healthy, nutritious selections will minimize the likelihood of tooth decay.
Baby teeth may not last long, but the effects of their health or lack there of will. Care for them.
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