National Children's Dental Health Month is celebrated in February, and is meant to raise awareness about the importance of good oral health. Tooth decay is the most common chronic and transmissible disease, and this is especially expressed in children. More than 40% of children age 2-11 have had a cavity in their primary (baby) teeth, and more than two thirds of teenagers age 16-19 have had a cavity in their permanent (adult) teeth. The good news is that there are safe and effective ways to protect our teeth. Good oral hygiene practices and dental sealants are two strategies to help prevent tooth decay in children and teens.
Tooth decay is the end product of an infection involving certain types of bacteria that use sugars in foods to make acid. Over a period of time, this acid can create a cavity in the tooth. Practicing good oral hygiene at home is the first step in keeping your mouth healthy. Brushing morning and night with a fluoride toothpaste, using an alcohol free mouth rinse, and flossing daily create the perfect combination for good oral hygiene.
Your back teeth have deep grooves that aren't always easy to clean with a toothbrush. Dental sealants are a thin plastic coating that the dentist or hygienist can place of the chewing surfaces of your back teeth to prevent food and bacteria out of those pits and grooves. Dental sealants are a safe and effective prevention strategy, but a lot of people aren't aware that they are available. In fact, less than one third of children in the US have sealants on their teeth!
Caring for your child's teeth should be an important part of your daily routine. Please start bringing your child(ren) to the dentist around age 1, and they should be seen every 6 months unless otherwise recommended by their dentist. Earlier this year, Dr. Kifer posted a blog on caring for your child's teeth. Please review that post for specific recommendations on child oral care. Remember not to put your child to bed with a bottle of juice, milk or soda as this can lead to what's known as baby bottle syndrome. If your child needs a bottle to sleep, give them water. Healthy snacks are also important for good oral health. Choose foods without a lot of sugar, fruits and veggies are great snack choices! We know kids love cookies, and honestly, so do we, but try to save those for special occasions!
Good oral hygiene is especially important for kids (or adults) who are wearing braces. They'll need to rinse 3-4 times a day to loosen food that might be caught in the braces, and then brush thoroughly. Make sure your child has a toothbrush and toothpaste for their backpack, purse or locker so they can brush after lunch. Each night before bed, they'll need to rinse or brush with a fluoride rinse or toothpaste. Prescription strength fluoride toothpaste and/or rinse is best. Your dentist or hygienist may also recommend more frequent cleanings due to the difficulty in keeping teeth clean and healthy while in braces.
Good oral health is a window to good overall health. If you have any questions or concerns about your child's oral health, please call us at 479-521-2002!