Ways to Wellness
February is Children’s Dental Health Month
Question: What is the most popular time to go to the dentist?
Answer: 2:30 (tooth-hurty)
A familiar joke to many is also an unpleasant reality for many children. Dental decay is one of the most common diseases in children. While dental cavities are on the rise for children age 2-5 years old, there are actually many means of preventing cavities from ever developing. Once a trend to only see the dentist for acute pain, advances in dentistry have allowed for care that focuses more on prevention of problems, especially in children. Here are several tips to keep your child’s mouth healthy and pain-free.
First Dental Visit
A child should start visiting the dentist at age one. This is a shift in perspective from the former recommendation of a first visit at age three. A visit to the dentist at age one establishes a dental home for the child. It allows the dentist to perform a quick exam (usually while a parent helps hold their child on his or her lap), evaluate proper development of the teeth, make an assessment of the child’s risk for developing cavities, and discuss with the parent proper care of the teeth.
Sealants are a protective plastic coating applied to permanent and primary (or “baby”) teeth that are at risk for developing cavities. These coatings fill in the deep grooves on the chewing surfaces of the teeth where a toothbrush cannot reach, helping prevent cavities in those grooves. Sealants can be received at the dental office as well as through school-based programs.
A natural mineral that strengthens the outer surface of the tooth, fluoride is available in many forms. Many towns have water that is fluoridated to the optimum level for cavity prevention. Families that use a well may have natural fluoride in their well; water can be tested to check for the level of fluoride.
Toothpaste with the ADA seal is fluoridated and not only cleans teeth but provides beneficial fluoride. Several mouth rinses on the market contain fluoride as well. Fluoride can even be prescribed for young children who do not get enough through their water source. Fluoride is also administered at the dental office. Fluoride not only strengthens teeth to prevent cavities, it can actually reverse small cavities so that they do not have to be filled by the dentist.
Even with diligent brushing and flossing, a poor diet can quickly cause a good mouth to deteriorate with cavities. Each time a fermentable carbohydrate (think starch or sugar), is put into the mouth, it lowers the pH of the mouth-- making it vulnerable to cavities. It takes about 30 minutes for the mouth to recover so that the teeth are no longer under attack. What this means is that if a child is snacking or sipping frequently throughout the day, cavities are likely to result. Major culprits are sodas (even diet soda), juice, other sweetened beverages such as sports drinks, candies (especially those that are sucked for long periods of time like a lollipop), and crackers. Sweetened beverages should be consumed only at mealtime, and sippy-cups as well as bottles for bedtime should contain water only.
Preventative dentistry is the route to take to keep your child cavity free. Advanced dental cavities can cause pain, infection, swelling, and can even lead to hospitalization. Keep your child healthy and smiling by obtaining preventative dentistry and visiting your dentist regularly.
The Rumford Dental Health Center located at 60 Lowell St. is committed to increasing access to quality dental care for children and adults. The office accepts dental insurance plans, MaineCare, Care Credit and has a sliding fee for those who have no insurance. Ask your pediatrician for a referral to schedule an appointment for your child, or call the Dental Center at 369-3660.