Most parents know that it is important to teach kids to take care of their teeth, but sometimes it’s not the easiest thing in the world.

You have a lot on your plate as a parent and instilling good oral health practices may not be on the top of your to-do list. Some people believe that it isn’t important for kids to have good oral health practices because they don’t have their permanent teeth yet, but there are some very good reasons why you should instill good oral health practices when your kids are young.

1. Habit Formation

If you’ve ever tried to build a habit as an adult, like going to the gym on a daily basis, you know how hard it can be to maintain and how much willpower it takes. When you help your child form habits from a young age, they can easily maintain them for the rest of their lives. These habits are the basis of good oral health and when you get your child into the habit of brushing and flossing, it becomes an automatic part of their routine they no longer have to think about.

2. Baby Teeth Matter

There is a misconception that it doesn’t matter if you take care of baby teeth because they just fall out and are replaced by permanent adult teeth. Our first teeth serve as space holders for permanent teeth, so losing one prematurely can cause alignment problems that will need to be corrected with braces later.

Baby teeth do so much more than just hold the space for our permanent teeth. They foster good nutrition through proper chewing, aid in speech development, and impact self-confidence. If baby teeth have untreated decay, it can have negative implications on the adult teeth. This decay can also prevent permanent teeth from growing in properly which creates even more problems in the long run.

3. Sugar-Packed Snacks

Between juice, milk, candy, and snacks, our children are ingesting an alarming amount of sugar on a daily basis. Starchy snacks like chips and crackers can be broken down into sugar and cause cavities. Allowing children to drink milk, juice, or other sweet drinks from a bottle or sippy cup throughout the day can lead to tooth decay. This risk can be reduced by reducing sugar intake and teaching kids how to properly brush and floss. You can also give kids water between meals to eliminate a consistent source of sugar for bacteria to grow.

If switching to healthy snacks presents problems, give your child a choice between 2 healthy snacks. When kids are part of the decision-making process, they tend to feel more satisfied so this tactic may help you make the transition from sugary snacks to healthier ones.

4. Cavity Prevention

Cavities are an issue for children long before they ever get their hands on candy. Most parents don’t know that they should make a dental appointment for their baby when they get their very first tooth. One study found that only 10% of 1-year-olds and 24% of 2-year-olds had ever visited the dentist.

About 28% of kids between 2–5 years old have cavities and these cavities can lead to serious tooth decay both in their baby teeth and their adult teeth. Dental check-ups are just one part of preventing cavities. It is incredibly important to teach your kids to brush their teeth twice daily and once their teeth touch, they need to floss as well. Of course, they’re going to need your help when they first start but by laying these foundations and instilling these habits, you’re setting them up for good oral health in the future.

5. Tooth Decay Isn’t Just For Adults

When you think about tooth decay, you probably think about it as an adult problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 40% of children have tooth decay by the time they reach kindergarten and children with dental caries in their baby teeth are at much greater risk for cavities in their adult teeth. This is a huge problem because the earlier a child starts to get tooth decay, the greater the risk of future decay.

As children grow up, this risk increases. Bleeding gums is a common sign of gum disease and tooth decay and according to the ADHA, 75% of teenagers have gums that bleed. The good news is that almost all tooth decay and most gum disease can be prevented with good oral health practices.

Instilling good oral health practices early will improve your child’s health and set them up for a lifetime of good oral health. We know this isn’t always the easiest thing to do so if you need help, ask your dentist and they will have some suggestions for you.