A Few Steps Started Today Can Help to Keep Your Child’s Teeth Healthy For their Lifetime
Your baby by taking care of yourself, getting the appropriate nutritionand rest, and made necessary plans for their arrival. Now that they have become an active part of yourfamily, that care takes on a new meaning in giving them the best foot forward in their own health. This,of course, includes their dental health. During a baby’s first year, there are two instructions that I always share with parents:
- Do not give your baby a bottle of milk (or sippy cup of juice) to drink from while in bed to help them fall asleep.
- Start to wipe their gums with a washcloth and brush their teeth (as they start to come in) with an infant toothbrush after each meal.
One of the saddest situations to see is a very young child that has to be put in the hospital, put to sleep, and have all their teeth drilled on because of “baby bottle caries.” Consistently following these two steps will dramatically reduce the chances of these “baby bottle caries” from ever forming
The Preschool Years
Usually by the average age of 2 years old (can be as early as 18 months or as late as 3 years old), your child will have all 20 (10 upper and 10 lower) deciduous “baby” teeth. As your child grows they become more independent. It is important to allow your child some ownership and responsibility in their daily tasks and taking care of themselves. However, you still need to oversee that things are done safely and well. Follow these tips during the preschool years:
- Good hygiene starting with brushing teeth after every meal. Let your child brush their own teeth first, as you guide them to brush every area. Only put a “pea sized” amount of fluoride tooth paste on their brush. Make sure they spit the tooth paste out and don’t swallow it. Finally, after your child is finished brushing, always brush their teeth after them to confirm thorough brushing.
- Provide a healthy diet including fruits and vegetables. Sweet desserts are fine to give to your child; however, in moderation and best if served with meals. Snacks given in between meals extend the time that teeth are exposed to sugar and increase the risk for cavities.
- Fluoridated water has been designated as one of the top 10 greatest public health achievements of the 20th century by the Centers for Disease Control. It has been a key component resulting in a 40-70% reduction in tooth decay in children and a 40-60% reduction in tooth loss in adults. Ingesting fluoride in small doses during the time of tooth development makes the teeth more resistant to tooth decay. Topical fluoride, found in toothpaste, mouth rinses, and fluoride treatments at the dentist, all further make the teeth more resistant to tooth decay.
- Dental visits every 6 months are a key component in keeping your child’s teeth healthy. During these visits, the teeth are cleaned as bacterial plaque is removed, x-rays are taken to locate cavities hidden in between the teeth and also to see the development of the underlying permanent teeth, the teeth are examined to find any problems requiring attention, and a fluoride varnish is applied to the teeth.
- Dental sealants are a preventative and protective coating placed over the deep surfaces of the back chewing teeth. Food and sugar gets down in the deep crevices where it can be difficult to remove, and teeth cavities can start to form. Insurance often only pays for sealants on the permanent molars, but sealants can be placed on permanent premolars and even on baby teeth. On a personal note, my son had very deep crevices in his baby molars. He would eat Oreo’s, then brush his teeth, and the Oreo’s would still be in the deep places of his teeth. This would have resulted in cavities over time, so I placed sealants on his baby molars to help prevent cavities from forming.
The School Years
As your child enters the school age years, the baby teeth start to naturally fall out and the permanent teeth start coming in. Continual practice of good hygiene through the tips already mentioned and following a few more below will further provide your child with a healthy set of teeth:
- Early and intentional addressing of any problems while they are still small. Small cavities can be removed and replaced with conservative tooth colored fillings.
- Orthodontics, not only can create a more beautiful smile, but can reposition teeth into a more healthy position that can help to prevent cavities and gum issues.
- Sport mouth guards help protect the teeth, gums, and lips from sports injury from impact. Custom-made sports guard made protect significantly better than store bought boil-and-bite guards. These guards’ protection from injury (broken teeth, cut lip/gums, and concussions) is crucial in sports with impact like football, hockey, basketball, soccer, and karate.
Bad Teeth Genetics?
Adults frequently tell me that they inherited their bad teeth from their parents. Although genetics may play a factor in tooth development, it is relatively minor. A much more important factor that we do “inherit” from our parents are the habits they instill in us. Thorough and frequent oral hygiene, as well as semi-annual visits to the dentist may be the greatest things related to dental health that we can teach our children. An abundance of cavities in permanent teeth of 6-12 year old children will continue to be an issue for them their entire life. It leads to larger fillings, crowns, root canals, or even tooth loss. However, good preventive habits can help your child have healthy teeth for a lifetime. More and more children today graduate from high school never having had a cavity.
Our dental office offers preventative and restorative treatment for the entire family including your children. We would love to be your health care partner in helping to keep your child’s teeth healthy. Please contact our office if you have any questions or would like more information. We are happy to provide a complimentary consultation to address your concerns.