February 7, 2013 | Vol. 116 -- No. 42

Preventing tooth decay in children

Oral health affects one’s overall well-being. For example: although not the sole cause, gum disease contributes to heart disease. Especially when inflamed, tissues in the mouth can allow bacteria to pass inside the blood stream and eventually accumulate inside cardiac arteries. The byproducts of same types of bacteria cause decay in teeth. Keeping that in mind, it is concluded that an integral part of healthy life is a healthy mouth. We do our best to keep our little ones physically healthy. The oral health of our children is as paramount.

As February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, the following are a few suggestions to help parents ensure children’s optimum oral health.

To set our children on a good path to oral health, we as parents must remind ourselves that habits to good oral health are imparted by the people our children look up to the most – ourselves – the parents. Preventing tooth decay in children begins with taking good care of our own mouth. Since maintaining good oral health is part of my daily routine, it becomes something that I will impart with high level of diligence to my child.

It is important to start very early. Keep your baby’s mouth clean by gently wiping the gums with a clean baby washcloth. Once you see the first teeth, gently brush using a soft baby toothbrush and water. Ask your child’s dentist about fluoride. At about 12 - 24 months old, brush your child’s teeth at least two times a day. If your child’s doctor or dentist recommends fluoride toothpaste, use only a light smear for children younger than 2 years. The best times to brush are after breakfast and before bed.

Although some may disagree, common sense dictates that it is not a good idea to put your child to bed with a bottle or food. Not only does this expose your child’s teeth to sugars, it can also put your child at risk for ear infections and choking. Give your child a bottle only during meals.

Do not use a bottle or sippy cup as a pacifier or let your child walk around with or drink from them for long periods. If your child must have a bottle or sippy cup for long periods, fill it with water only.

During car rides, offer only water if your child is thirsty. Teach your child to drink from a regular cup as soon as possible. Drinking from a cup is less likely to cause the liquid to collect around the teeth. Also, a cup cannot be taken to bed.

Check to see if your water is fluoridated. If your tap water comes from a well, your child’s dentist may want to have a water sample tested for natural fluoride content. If your tap water does not have enough fluoride, your child’s dentist will prescribe an appropriate fluoride supplement if your child is at increased risk for tooth decay.

Don’t let your child eat sweet or sticky foods, like candy, gummies, cookies, or fruit roll-ups. There is sugar in foods like crackers and chips too. These foods are especially bad if your child snacks on them a lot. They should only be eaten at mealtime. Teach your child to use his or her tongue to clean food immediately off the teeth.

Serve juice only during meals and limit it to 4 to 6 ounces per day. Also, juice is not recommended for babies younger than 6 months.

Make an appointment to have your child see the dentist before age 2 even if you do not think there are problems. If nothing else, get the child familiar with the settings of a dental office as early as possible. Many times the first couple of visits can be just “going for a ride” in the chair and “brushing your teeth.” And at the end there is always a little prize like stickers, toys and of course – a new tooth brush.

Andrew Martinssen, DDS is proud to call Cheney his home town. Martinssen, received his dental training at University of Southern California in 2002 and has practiced mostly in Arizona ever since. He feels very fortunate to have his passion as his career.

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