Teeth for Life
Practicing good oral hygiene means maintaining your child's smile by visiting the dentist regularly and taking care of their teeth and gums between checkups. Our practice wants to make sure that you and your child get the most out of your office visits, and that your child's teeth stay healthy for life! We'll work with you to provide complete dental care, and show you how to maintain your child's smile at home with the right dental products for you and your family.
Good Habits! - Preventing Cavities
Good oral hygiene removes bacteria and the leftover food particles that combine to create cavities.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends visits every six months to the pediatric dentist, beginning at your child's first birthday. Routine visits will start your child on a lifetime of good dental health.
Care of Your Child's Teeth
Begin daily brushing as soon as the child's first tooth erupts. For infants, use a wet gauze pad, a soft toothbrush, or a clean washcloth to wipe the plaque from teeth and gums after a meal or bottle. The easiest way to do this is to sit down, place the child's head in your lap or lay the child on a dressing table or the floor. Whatever position you use, be sure you can see into the child's mouth easily.
For older children, brush their teeth at least twice a day, after breakfast and immediately before bedtime. Also, floss at least once a day, at bedtime, if there are no spaces between the teeth. Watch the number of snacks containing sugar that you give your children.
A smear of fluoridated toothpaste can be used after the child is able to spit. Until that age, use a fluoride-free (safe to swallow) toothpaste. Remember, children should spit out toothpaste after brushing to avoid getting too much fluoride. If too much fluoride is ingested, a condition known as fluorosis can occur. Fluorosis results in developmental defects (white or brown patches) on permanent teeth. When looking for a toothpaste for your child, make sure to pick one that is recommended by the American Dental Association as shown on the box and tube. These toothpastes have undergone testing to insure they are safe to use. By age 4 or 5, children should be able to brush their own teeth twice a day with supervision. Allow your child to brush his/her teeth first, then go in and brush for them after they have had a chance. Children generally do not have the manual dexterity to adequately clean all the surfaces of their teeth until they are able to write in cursive (about age 7 or 8). Our team can help you determine whether the child has the skill level to brush properly.
Proper brushing removes plaque from the inner, outer and chewing surfaces. When teaching children to brush, place toothbrush at a 45-degree angle; start along gum line with a soft bristle brush, and work the brush in a gentle circular motion. Brush the outer surfaces of each tooth, upper and lower as well as the gums. Repeat the same method on the inside surfaces and chewing surfaces of all the teeth. Finish by brushing the tongue to help freshen breath and remove bacteria.
Flossing removes plaque between the teeth, where a toothbrush can't reach. Flossing should begin when any two teeth touch. You should floss the child's teeth until he/she can do it alone. Use about 18 inches of floss, winding most of it around the middle fingers of both hands. Hold the floss lightly between the thumbs and forefingers. Use a gentle, back-and-forth motion to guide the floss between the teeth. Curve the floss into a C-shape and slide it into the space between the gum and tooth until you feel resistance. Gently scrape the floss against the side of the tooth. Repeat this procedure on each tooth. Don't forget the backs of the last four teeth. You can also use disposable floss holders found at the drug store, sometimes these can be easier to use in little mouths!
Avoid putting your child to bed with a bottle filled with anything other than water. Having the child go to bed with a bottle of juice or milk can lead to early childhood caries. One serious form of decay among young children is baby bottle tooth decay (early childhood caries). This condition is caused by frequent and long exposures of an infant's teeth to liquids that contain sugar. Among these liquids are milk (including breast milk), formula, fruit juice and other sweetened drinks. These liquids pool around the child's teeth allowing bacteria an opportunity to produce acids that attack tooth enamel.
Healthy eating habits lead to healthy teeth. Like the rest of the body, the teeth, bones and the soft tissues of the mouth need a well-balanced diet. Children should eat a variety of foods from the five major food groups. Most snacks that children eat can lead to cavity formation. Chewy, sticky snacks like fruit snacks, fruit roll-ups, raisins, etc., can get stuck in the pits and fissures of teeth and develop cavities. Sugar in fruit juices or chocolate/strawberry milk can cause cavities between the teeth, or along the gum-line. Young children should have no more that 4 oz of juice a day. Try to limit juice and flavored milk to mealtimes only. This limits the length of exposure the liquid has to the teeth. The more frequently a child snacks, the greater the chance of developing tooth decay. How long food remains in the mouth also plays a role. If your child must snack, choose nutritious foods such as vegetables, low-fat yogurt, low-fat cheese, and peanut butter which are healthier and better for children's teeth.
Xylitol - Reducing Cavities
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recognizes the benefits of xylitol on the oral health of infants, children, adolescents, and persons with special health care needs. Xylitol is a sugar substitute, and is also found in certain brands of chewing gum and toothpaste. Xylitol is found in nature in small amounts in fruits, berries, mushrooms, lettuce, and corn.
The bacteria that determines caries susceptibility is generally transmitted from mother (or caregiver) to their infant within the first 3 years of life. It is transferred orally (sharing spoons, tasting food, kissing, etc). The later the child is infected with this bacteria; and the lower the mother's caries rate, the fewer cavities the child will develop. The use of XYLITOL GUM by mothers (2-3 times per day) starting 3 months after delivery and until the child was 2 years old, has proven to reduce cavities up to 70% by the time the child was 5 years old!
Studies using xylitol have demonstrated a dramatic reduction in new tooth decay, along with some reversal of existing dental caries. Xylitol provides additional protection that enhances all existing prevention methods. This xylitol effect is long-lasting and possibly permanent. Low decay rates persist even years after the studies have been completed.
Caution: Dogs can not metabolize xylitol – it will lower their blood sugar and can send them into liver failure if ingested.
Dental Cleanings and Regular Checkups
Regular dental checkups are an important part of maintaining your oral health. During your regular checkup, your hygienist will:
- Check for any problems that you may not see or feel
- Look for cavities or any other signs of tooth decay
- Inspect your teeth and gums for gingivitis and signs of periodontal disease
- Provide a thorough teeth cleaning, rinse, and polish
Visiting the dentist every six months gives you the chance to talk with your doctor and receive answers for any questions you may have about your oral health. Checkups are also a great way for you to find out about new treatments that may benefit your smile.
Choosing the Right Toothpaste and Toothbrush
From toothpaste and mouthwash to toothbrushes and dental floss, it's important to choose the right products for your smile. Keep in mind that when you're looking for a new toothpaste or toothbrush, be sure to choose one that has been approved by the American Dental Association (ADA). Your dentist can also help by recommending certain dental products for use at home.
Did you know that at birth, people already have 20 primary (baby) teeth that begin erupting after six months, and that by age 21, there are no more primary teeth, and all 32 permanent teeth have erupted?
Getting to know your teeth can be fun and educational!
Anatomy of a Tooth
Tooth Eruption Chart