When it comes to protecting your child’s smile (and their teeth), prevention is the key. A proactive approach to oral care can save your little one from the inevitable consequences of a sweet tooth — tooth decay and resulting cavities — and the unintended surprises of injury or trauma to the mouth, including chips and cracks. Keep reading for some at-home prevention tips and find out how preventive dentistry treatments can protect your child’s smile, giving your little one the best oral health possible.
Here’s a little secret: good dental hygiene should begin before the first tooth becomes visible above the gum line. Running a clean, damp cloth over your child’s gums at least once a day removes any sweetened liquid from the mouth. It also helps prepare your baby for brushing when the first tooth appears. Once your baby gets a tooth, start brushing twice a day with a soft child-size toothbrush. You can also add a tiny bit of baby toothpaste which doesn’t contain any fluoride and is safe for your child to swallow.
Most children need help brushing their teeth until they’re around eight or nine years old. Take this time to also go over flossing — another critical element of a good oral hygiene routine. Be sure that your child knows to brush their tongue and gums as well… that’s where most of the harmful bacteria like to hide. Prevention such as this can keep their mouth cavity free.
Good oral hygiene alone isn’t a guarantee against tooth decay and cavities. What your child eats is also important in the prevention of decay and other dental issues. When your child consumes too many sugary snacks, energy drinks, and sweetened juices, they’re not the only ones who’ll enjoy the treats… the harmful bacteria in their mouth will too! This bacteria will then produce an acid that erodes the outer layer of the teeth. Overtime, repeated non-nutritious snacking will lead to tooth decay. It may also trigger an inflammatory response that causes the breakdown of the supporting structures of your teeth, including the gums and jaw bone.
A balanced diet that includes a variety of vitamins and minerals can reduce the risk of dental and periodontal diseases for your whole family. Add fiber-rich fruits and vegetables to your child’s meals to help keep their teeth and gums clean, and get saliva flowing. Consider also including milk, cheese, and other dairy products to your child’s diet to help put back minerals their teeth may have lost due to other foods. On the days your child’s craving for sugar is too strong to resist, let them have their favorite snack with meals. Our mouths make more saliva when we’re eating. This will help remove any leftovers in the mouth and neutralize the bacteria-causing tooth decay.
Prevention through diet and a good at-home dental routine can only go so far when you’re trying to give your child the best possible oral health… the rest of the journey will require a dentist’s touch. Our toothbrushes and floss don’t always reach all the nooks and crannies in the mouth where leftovers can accumulate. Dental sealants can “seal” out the ridges and grooves on the biting surface, limiting the spaces where cavity-causing bacteria tend to hide. Sealants give your child’s most vulnerable tooth surface an extra layer of protection.
Did you know fluoride in water is the single most effective public health measure in the prevention of tooth decay? Studies show that community water fluoridation prevents at least 25%of tooth decay in children and adults. Imagine what this would mean if a child at high risk of developing cavities also had regular fluoride treatments. For one, the enamel would become more resistant to the action of acids and for another, fluoride applications would accelerate the build up of healthy minerals in the teeth. Some studies even report cases where fluoride stopped already-started tooth decay.
We’ve talked a bit about how you can protect your child’s teeth from cavities and decay. But those aren’t the only things gunning for your little one’s smile. What about the possible damage to your teeth when high speeds, flying objects, and competitive players come together? Or the unconscious nighttime jaw clenching and teeth grinding? Custom-fit dental appliances like mouthguards can protect teeth from breaking, chipping, or cracking due to impacts to the face and head, and also limit injuries to the tongue and lips.
Getting your child a dental night guard to wear will help make sure that the top teeth and bottom teeth have no contact while they sleep. This lessens pressure on the jaw and reduces the possibility of your child unconsciously grinding their teeth hard enough to crack or break them.
The first step in giving your child the best oral health possible is to find out everything you need to know about their teeth and gums. And the best way to do this is to schedule a comprehensive exam at our First Dental Associate office. We will take some quick and easy digital X-rays of your child’s mouth and use air abrasion (the least invasive technique) to clean your child’s teeth.
Prevention through regular dental checkups and discussions with our dentist, you will understand your child’s oral health, know which treatments are needed to protect their smile, and find out what changes to their diet to make before any lasting damage happens to your child’s teeth… giving your child the healthiest smile possible.