For a healthy smile, preventive dentistry is especially important for growing children. Preventing cavities is easier, more painless, and less costly than treating dental problems once they’ve already developed. More importantly, having a healthy mouth helps children maintain better nutrition, self-esteem, and overall health.
Establishing the Best Dental Habits
At Kids Dentist, a twice-a-year professional dental cleaning and fluoride treatment, accompanied by parental involvement with daily oral care at home, is a major part of your child’s prevention program. But it doesn’t end there, and also includes:
- Daily brushing and flossing
- Proper nutrition and dietary habits
- Assessing risk of developing cavities
- Oral health education
- Management of oral habits
- Evaluating oral growth and development
- Guidance for erupting teeth
- Protection against injuries (mouth guards)
Brushing can be fun, and your child’s teeth should be brushed as soon as they first appear in the mouth. Parents should brush the child’s teeth until they are old enough to do a good job on their own. In general, we advise helping your child through age 7.
- Starting at birth, clean your child’s teeth with a soft cloth and water.
- As soon as the first tooth erupts, start using a soft-bristled toothbrush and a smear of fluoride toothpaste. Make sure to choose an ADA-accepted brand.
- As they get older, kids should be able to brush on their own with direct parental supervision and occasional help as needed.
Flossing removes plaque and food from between the teeth. It is an important habit to develop early in life, and should be started as soon as any two teeth touch.
Children will need help from their parents when they first begin flossing. A member of our pediatric dental group will be happy to offer advice and tips on how to properly floss.
Nutrition and Diet
Nutrition is a very important part of cavity prevention, so a discussion with parents about their child’s eating habits is essential during your visit with us.
Sodas and sticky snacks are a common and well-known culprit in dental disease. But grazing on treats and sweetened drinks throughout the day is also a bad idea, as frequency of snacking exposes your teeth repeatedly to sugar-digesting acids.
Children should eat a variety of foods from the five major food groups, with parents providing healthy snacks such as vegetables, fresh fruits, nuts, low-fat yogurt, and low-fat cheese. When kids are thirsty the best option is always water, since juices are high in carbohydrates and acids that will damage tooth enamel.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring element that is essential for proper tooth development and the prevention of cavities. When fluoride is present in the body it becomes part of the crystalline structure of tooth enamel, hardening it and making it more resistant to acid attacks—thus reducing the chances of cavity formation. Fluoride is present in some drinking water supplies and in many dental products, like toothpaste and mouth rinses.
There are two kinds of fluoride:
Systemic fluoride is ingested by children and adults in drinking water or supplements. This is the fluoride that benefits the developing permanent teeth while they are still under the gums.
Once a tooth has erupted, it needs exposure to topical fluoride , applied to the surface via toothpaste, mouth rinses, and topical fluoride treatments. The application of topical fluoride and varnishes here at our kids dental center is an invaluable tool for preventing cavities.
Depending on their oral health or the doctor’s recommendation, your child may be required to have a fluoride treatment every three, six, or twelve months. We may even recommend a fluoride supplement, in the form of drops or tablets, if we determine the amount of fluoride in your drinking water is insufficient.
Assessing Risks of Developing Cavities
During every dental exam we will perform a risk assessment determining how prone to oral disease your child is, based on such factors as diet, family tendencies, medical history, medications, and oral habits. This assessment will help us personalize our recommendations, so that we can better prevent and minimize any cavities in the future.
Oral Health Education
Educating our patients and families on the best way to improve their oral health is of paramount importance to us. Based on what we learn during your child’s dental exam, we will make specific recommendations on brushing, flossing, fluoride, diet, and other aspects of oral care that allow a bright and healthy smile to last a lifetime.
Management of Oral Habits
Many children develop oral habits that can impact the growth and development of their jaws and teeth. These include thumb-sucking, finger-sucking, tongue-thrusting, and heavy pacifier use. Following our examination we will discuss the impact of your child’s habits on his or her mouth, let you know if these habits are a reason for concern, and make recommendations for any necessary treatment.
Evaluating Oral growth and Development
Along with systemic disease and poor oral habits, there are a number of factors that can adversely affect growth and development of the mouth. Are teeth erupting on time? Are they erupting in the right sequence? Are the jaws properly aligned? Is there any malformation of the teeth or jaws? As part of our dental exam, we will perform a full evaluation to make sure your child’s mouth is developing in a healthy fashion, and make referrals and recommendations as needed.
Guidance for Erupting Teeth
The normal eruption of teeth can be affected in many ways, and it’s our job to make sure your child’s teeth are growing in the right sequence, in the right place, and in proper alignment. Based on the results of our exam, we will address any areas of concern and make appropriate recommendations for treatment so that each new tooth emerges in its proper place.
A sealant is a thin, protective coating that acts as a barrier to dental plaque, bacteria, and acid. It can be applied to your child’s molars to prevent tooth decay, and is both safe and painless. Our sealants are made of a BPA-free resin that coats the pits and grooves of your child’s permanent molars, making it less likely for food and bacteria to hide in those areas and begin the cavity-making process.
If your child is involved in a contact sport, a customized mouthguard can be made to prevent injuries to the face and teeth. These custom-fit mouth guards are more comfortable than store-bought ones—and the more comfortable they are, the more likely your child will wear one to protect his or her teeth, head, and neck from injury. Just as important, mouth guards have been shown to reduce the risk of concussion.
The American Dental Association estimates that athletes who don’t wear mouth guards are 60 times more likely to suffer dental injury than those who do. The ADA recommends children always wear mouth guards when participating in contact sports such as: