Cavities are the leading cause of tooth loss among children.
Based on a recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 25 percent of children below the age of 5 are suffering from untreated cavity-causing tooth decay.
The most effective way to help your child is to develop healthy dental habits early on, so they can enjoy a lifetime of the best oral health.
Reducing the risk of developing oral diseases in children is a multi-faceted approach. Although important, the eradication of the concern cannot be simply addressed by providing treatment.
Parents are encouraged to practice preventive measures that focuses on proper dental education to avoid the possible negative impact on the child’s speech development, school performance, sleep, self-esteem, and nutrition.
To be properly informed, here are the answers to the common questions parents have regarding their child’s oral health.
Q: When is the ideal time to introduce good oral hygiene practices to children?
A: Experts suggest that a child’s oral care should immediately commence after every feeding. This means that regardless of whether a tooth has already emerged, dental hygiene should already be practiced.
Using a fresh, damp washcloth or a wet gauze pad, take a proactive approach by cleaning the baby’s mouth and gums. As the child begins teething, typically around 3 to 7 months old, continue using the method to help prevent infections and gum pain.
Consult a dentist or pediatrician regarding the appropriate toothbrush and toothpaste to use. At around 18 months, you can teach children to brush their teeth twice a day using a pea-sized dab of toothpaste and a small round-tipped toothbrush with soft bristles.
As a general rule, baby toothpastes should be fluoride free and safe to swallow. When the child can spit effectively, then it is the right time to use a fluoride toothpaste. When it comes to flossing, introduce the habit as soon as two teeth touch each other.
Q: Are sugar-free medicines better for my child’s dental health?
A: Yes. Sugar in children’s liquid medicines is a contributory factor in the development of dental caries. In recent years, the availability of sugar-free alternative medicines have tremendously increased. However, specific prescription is still necessary, since most generic liquid preparations are still formulated with sucrose, an etiological agent for tooth decay.
Q: How can I prevent early childhood caries?
A: Early childhood caries or baby bottle tooth decay can be prevented with by adhering to certain helpful tips. If not averted, the disease can quickly damage the child’s teeth, possibly leading to tooth loss.
Baby bottle tooth decay usually arises when the baby’s teeth are exposed to starch and sugar for prolonged periods of time. Sippy cups or baby bottle with milk or fruit juices are packed with enamel-destroying sugars. When these fluids enter the mouth, they provide food to bacterias, producing acids that eat up the tooth.
- Don’t let your child walk around the house with a sippy cup or bottle unless it is filled with plain water.
- Let your child finish his or her milk or fruit juice before bedtime or naptime.
- Don’t coat the baby’s soother with sugar, honey, and other sugary liquids.
- When the child is already 12 to 14 months old, talk with your pediatrician about the various methods of weaning the baby from the bottle.
- Don’t use your mouth to clean your child’s pacifier. Infection leading to tooth decay and gum diseases might be transmitted to your child through saliva sharing.
- Schedule a dental visit as soon as the child’s first tooth emerges.
- Clean your baby’s teeth and gums with a child-recommended toothbrush or a damp washcloth after each feeding.
Q: Where can I get the nutritional supplements necessary for optimal dental health?
A: Fruits and vegetables are the best source of vitamins and nutrients ideal for your child’s oral health. Food groups that are packed with water, such as apples, celery, melons, pears, and cucumbers are natural mouth cleansers. Eating them causes a brushing effect against the teeth, and they also stimulate saliva production, thus reducing bacteria buildup.
Foods with concentrated levels of sugar, starch, and carbohydrates create a thin layer of film that stick to the surface of the mouth and gums. Cavity-causing bacteria will thrive by feasting on these compounds.
The same effect happens with carbonated and sugary beverages. To quench their thirst, limit the consumption of fizzy drinks and fruit juices or better yet, give them milk or water instead.
Q: How can I create a tooth-friendly home for my child?
A: Kids are a submissive bunch, but oftentimes they are rebellious. When it comes to initiating good oral hygiene routines, they will rightfully follow instructions and easily incorporate them into a habit if you are firm with your imposition tactics.
- Take away the mundane factor of brushing and flossing. Making the activity a fun a memorable one will induce them to regularly re-create the experience over and over again.
- Brushing should be done twice a day; and flossing, once daily. No exceptions.
- Supervise and check. After they’re done cleaning their teeth on their own, make sure there are no missed spots. Regardless of the extent of their accomplishment, your scrutiny should be accompanied by constructive remarks like “You did a great job, but next time, don’t forget to pay special attention to those back teeth.”
- Never share toothbrushes. Keep a few extras on hand, so you will have something to give in exchange, if your little one wants to use yours.
- A pea-sized amount of toothpaste goes a long way.
- Ask your dentist for fluoride supplements if your local water system does not provide fluoridated water.
Kids are inquisitive folks. Teach them by example and inculcate the importance of making responsible lifestyle choices.
If you have any questions, you can call and make an appointment with Hawaii Family Dental Centers at 1-877-BIG-SMILE. Atop the aforementioned five topics are heaps of other basic and complex concerns.
Proper education and information and regular consultation with dental professionals are collaborative efforts essential for the success of your child’s oral health. Ensure that your child will enjoy the long-term benefits of a beautiful and healthy smile by doing the right strategies today.