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It's easy to prevent cavities in your child: Timing the tooth fairy
"They're just baby teeth -- right?"
Truly, a child's smile is more precious than gold -- but your child's teeth do more than give them a winning smile!
The first set of teeth aids in the growth and development of the child's face and jaws, and plays a pivotal role in nutrition and speech. The state of the first teeth -- and preventing cavities in your child -- is often an indicator of the adult teeth. Additionally, they have a significant impact on the child's self-esteem. Many parents mistakenly assume that if a baby tooth is lost to decay or trauma, "another one" will eventually take its place.
The truth is that baby teeth are designated to remain in place a certain length of time; if one is lost too early the remaining teeth may shift, altering the bite and preventing the adult tooth from erupting properly. In some patients the adult tooth never develops, so a lost tooth may have no replacement. In each of these scenarios, orthodontics (braces) and/or prosthodontics (artificial teeth) may be required to correct the condition.
Children should have their first dental appointment within six months of the eruption of the first tooth, or by one year of age, whichever occurs first. Establishing care early will allow the child to become familiar with the dental environment in a non-threatening manner, as well as aid the caregivers in understanding proper oral health care and permit early detection and intervention as needed.
Dental cavities are preventable, yet this condition is the most common chronic disease affecting children in the United States -- being five times more common than asthma. Indeed, nearly half of all children in America have cavities by the time they reach kindergarten. That’s a problem because cavities can cause extreme pain, difficulty eating, and spread infection. Also, cavities in the primary teeth can increase the risk of dental decay in adult teeth.
How can I help prevent cavities?
Parents who want to get their children off to the best possible start can be guided by two simple principles:
It starts with you. Parents are responsible for the oral health care of their children. And as every parent knows, children mimic their elders' behavior. If you take good care of your teeth, chances are, your child will do the same.
Start early. A baby's gums should be gently wiped clean with a clean, moistened washcloth or soft, sterile gauze (available from your dentist or pharmacist) after feeding, especially before bed. Use of a toothbrush should begin as soon as the first tooth erupts. To achieve the best results, positioning is crucial; the caregiver should be behind the child with the child's head in his/her lap. This can be accomplished with the adult sitting in a chair behind the standing child or sitting on the floor with the child reclined.
Tooth-brushing should focus on the gumline (where the gums and teeth meet) as well as the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. Ask your dentist when you should introduce toothpaste, and if so, exactly what kind. For high-risk children, additional fluoride supplementation may be required. Encourage the child to participate in the process, but keep in mind that all children should be supervised when brushing until at least the age of 8 years.
In addition to good hygiene habits, good diet and eating habits are essential. Juice, milk and any other sweetened beverages should only be offered with full meals, and only water should be offered in-between. Diluting sweetened drinks, including pure juice, does not help, as the bacteria in the mouth need only a minimal amount of sugar to begin the destructive process of cavity formation, and thus this practice, for the purpose of the teeth, is not encouraged.
Tantamount is establishing care with a dentist and oral health team. Expectant mothers in particular should seek a dentist just as they do an obstetrician and pediatrician.
Nicholas Sirois, DMD and Shirwac Mohamed, DMD are fully-licensed dentists at Community Dental at 60 Lowell St. in Rumford.
Community Dental’s mission is to improve the lives of children and adults in our communities by providing needed, accessible, affordable, quality oral health care.