Parents can do many things to help kids grow to be successful adults.
Some parents choose only the best in nutrition. Others pay for private education or encourage athletics. Some parents might focus on a can-do attitude and habits linked with success.
However, there is one simple plan for success that’s hiding under our noses: a healthy smile.
You may have grown up believing tooth decay is not a big deal. Or you may not worry about cavities in baby teeth because they will be replaced by adult teeth. Even though cavities are common, they’re not normal. Tooth decay is an infection and should be taken seriously.
1. Smiles impact success at school
Untreated cavities can make it hard for kids to do well at school. If ignored, a cavity can grow to reach the nerves inside the tooth. The pain can make it hard to sleep at night and focus during class. Dental disease can lead to poor attendance, less learning, and lower grades.
The infection can also spread to other teeth, including the adult tooth under it. Bacteria from tooth decay can also spread to other parts of the body and cause serious infections in the brain and heart.
2. Smiles impact how we feel about ourselves and how others see us
Kids whose cavities show when they smile or talk are targets for teasing or bullying. As a result, they may be less likely to speak in class or share their smile with others. This can make your child feel bad about themselves well into adulthood.
Studies show that kids can smile up to 400 times per day. This helps them make friends and learn the social skills they need to do well in the future.
When kids don’t keep their smiles healthy, they become adults who don’t smile because they are ashamed of how their teeth look. Others may see them as unfriendly, dishonest, and not very smart. This makes it hard to make friends and get good-paying jobs.
3. Smiles impact our mental and physical health
Feeling happy makes us smile but smiling can also make us feel happy! Brain imaging studies show that smiling (even a fake smile) reduces stress and improves mood.
On the other hand, poor oral health habits can set off a chain reaction of poor overall health. The germs that cause gum disease can travel around the body and cause inflammation that makes depression and anxiety worse. It’s hard to smile when you’re sad or worried.
Not only that, poor oral health can also lead to: infections in the sinuses and lungs, poor brain health, a higher risk of heart disease and stroke, high blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, poor gut health, and low birth weight and early delivery in pregnancy
The good news is when your child takes care of their mouth, they can: do better at school, grow healthier bodies and minds, feel better about themselves, and learn the good behaviors they need to succeed in life.
To keep your smile healthy, it’s critical to brush and floss together every day. Kids who see their parents practicing healthy habits are more likely to pick them up. Plus, it will improve your oral and overall health, too!
Also, make sure to take your child for a dental check-up every six months. Your dental care provider can spot problems early when they are cheaper to treat and before pain sets in.
Visit AmericasToothFairy.org for free educational resources and to find dental care providers that serve low-income families.