You can keep your family’s teeth and gums healthy when appropriate preventable methods are implemented. With that said, it is important to start your prevention early, very early, when you child is only around two or three years old.
Start by familiarizing them with good habits associated with oral and dental care. Healthy habits stay with your children well into adulthood.
The following tips and guidelines are suggested in order to keep your entire family’s smiles sparkling!
Early Childhood Cavities
Early childhood cavities (ECC) is a disease that affects children between birth and 71 months. This disease is also known as baby bottle tooth decay, nursing bottle caries and night bottle mouth. ECC occurs when there is one or more decayed or missing teeth found in young children and babies. It is very painful for children and caused by many factors, including a high sugar diet, frequent snacking and frequent bottle feeding.
Preventing Early Childhood Cavities
Luckily, ECC is a highly preventable disease. It is recommended to visit your dentist after a couple of your child’s new teeth first appear. Studies show that children who have attended dental visits within the first few years of life (an early preventive dental visit) experience less dental related issues and incur lower dental related costs throughout their lives.
More ways to prevent ECC include bottle feeding your baby at regular times and always removing the bottle when the baby falls asleep. Avoid putting your baby to sleep with a bottle and avoid letting your toddler walk around with a bottle. If putting a bottle in bed with your baby is something you must do, fill the bottle with water instead. This will help prevent cavities. Introducing your baby to non-milk liquids like water is also very helpful in preventing ECC. Researches also suggest trying to introduce cups to children as they approach their first birthday and to reduce the use of a bottle and sippy cups.
Make Visiting the Dentist: a Positive Experience
Help familiarize your children with the dentist. When you schedule your own dental checkups every six months, bring your young toddler along to help familiarize him/her with the dental office. Be sure to bring your child for their checkups before their first birthday. Not only does this help with their dental health, but it helps to remove the stigma children can have about visiting the dentist’s office. If children are familiar with their dentist early, they are less likely to be afraid later in life.
At around 6 years of age, permanent molars come in. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, using a dental sealant can significantly reduce tooth decay and cavities. Sealants coat the teeth and are set with an ultraviolet light. They are usually applied to children that need extra help in preventing plaque and cavities, between ages 5 to 7. According to the American Dental Association, sealants work by “’sealing out’ food and plaque because toothbrush bristles cannot reach all the way into the depressions and grooves.” Dental sealants are easy and quick to apply and are also very affordable. They can last up to ten years before needing to be replaced. Speak with your dental professional to find out if sealants are a good option for your child.
Fluoride strengthens enamel making it less likely to decay. Fluoride in tap water has been seen as the single biggest advance in oral health. If your water isn’t fluoridated, let your dentist know. They might suggest putting a fluoride application on your teeth if that is the case. Most mouth washes and toothpastes contain fluoride, but you should be careful when using fluoride with your children. If your child is under two years old, the toothpaste on their toothbrush should be the size of a grain of rice. For children between the ages of two and five years old, use a pea-sized amount of paste and always help your child brush their teeth. Using too much toothpaste can cause white stains on the teeth.
Brushing and Flossing
Before age two, your child’s teeth can be wiped with a damp cloth or a very soft brush. Be sure to help your kids brush their teeth and always supervise them until your child can brush their teeth independently, usually around age seven. When your child’s teeth start to fit closely together, between age two and six, parents should start to get their children in the habit of flossing daily. As they develop dexterity, you can help them learn to floss. Children usually develop the ability to floss on their own around age ten.
75% of all teenagers have gums that bleed, indicating possible gingivitis, according to the American Dental Hygienists Association. Gingivitis is treatable and reversible with proper care. Be sure to remind everyone in your family to brush and floss their teeth daily. Teens with braces might need to use a special toothbrush, as well as other oral hygiene tools to help clean their teeth and gums. Be sure to ask your dentist about which tools are best for your child.
Remember, early prevention is the key!