More prevention equals less treatment. Here are some important ways to help prevent the need for dental treatment.
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Establish good home care habits for children and follow simple oral care guidelines:
Infants: Wipe plaque from teeth and gums with a clean washcloth. Put your infant to bed with a bottle containing nothing but water. Even breast milk contains sugars that promote tooth decay.
Older children: Make sure your children are brushing their teeth at least twice a day. Brush children’s teeth for them until they can do it themselves. Flossing begins as soon as any two teeth are touching. Floss your children’s teeth daily until they can do it themselves. Supervise daily tooth care until children are at least seven or eight years old. Minimize or eliminate sugary snacks. Processed foods like potato chips and other common snacks can also contain sugar.
Children require toothpaste formulated specifically for children. When buying toothpaste for a child, make sure it is recommended for children.
Children should spit out toothpaste after brushing. If they swallow toothpaste they run the risk of fluorosis – discoloration of permanent teeth. If your children are too young to understand the need to spit, you should consider a fluoride free toothpaste.
A balanced diet is one of the keys to healthy teeth and gums. Children should have one daily serving from each of the food groups, including fruits and vegetables, breads and cereals, milk and dairy products, meat, fish and eggs.
Most snacks marketed to children today lead to tooth decay. When providing snacks for your child, try to avoid processed foods, minimize sugars and focus on healthy alternatives like yogurt, fresh vegetables or cheese.
Thumb Sucking and Pacifiers
Thumb sucking is natural. Most children stop on their own between the ages of two and four. Generally, thumb sucking and pacifiers need only be discouraged after the eruption of permanent teeth, when they can cause problems with tooth alignment and the proper growth of the mouth.
Fluoride and Fluorosis
Fluoride inhibits the loss of minerals from tooth enamel, strengthens already weakened enamel and fights the bacteria that cause cavities. Combined with a healthy diet and good oral hygiene, fluoride is a safe and powerful ally in the fight against tooth decay.
However, too much fluoride can be detrimental. Preschool children who get too much fluoride can develop fluorosis. Fluorosis is usually mild, with tiny white specks or streaks on the teeth. But, in severe cases tooth enamel may develop brown discolorations. Toothpaste ingestion is the biggest risk factor for fluorosis. Very young children often swallow the toothpaste and ingest excessive amounts of fluoride. For very young children, consider toothpaste without fluoride or limit toothpaste to a “pea-size” amount on the brush. Fluoride supplements should only be given to children on the recommendation of a pediatrician or pediatric dentist. In most cases, fluorosis is easily treated with cosmetic dentistry.
Contact us for more information and guidelines on the amount of fluoride appropriate for your child.