February is Children’s Dental Health Month, a time to assess how we are doing with oral health habits and cavity prevention. Wherever you are today with oral health, start there and make steps for improvements. Establishing effective oral health habits should start early. Tooth decay is largely preventable but it still ranks as the most common chronic disease among children. Here are five tips for improving children’s oral health to work on. Call Li’l Sunshine Smiles Dentistry today at 813-576-0200 to schedule an exam and cleaning for your child.
You can make a difference in the trajectory of your child’s oral health by starting when they are babies. Yes, even before they have teeth. Baby’s gum can be cleaned with water and a cloth or child-sized toothbrush to remove harmful sugars from oral tissues. As your child grows, the early introduction to oral cleaning will help him be more comfortable with mouth care.
At age two, parents can begin using a soft-bristled toothbrush and an ADA-approved fluoride toothpaste (the size of a grain of rice) to brush their child’s teeth. It is important to teach your child to spit out the toothpaste. The reason for this is the fluoride content of toothpaste. Fluoride in toothpaste is intended to impact teeth when brushing, but if it is ingested, it can lead to a spike in blood levels of fluoride which can permanently damage to teeth. This is especially true for children up to eight years of age since this is when adult teeth are developing. Now, don’t despair if your child occasionally doesn’t get all the toothpaste down the drain–this isn’t cause for alarm–but if this was occurring regularly it could lead to the tooth-damaging condition called Fluorosis. This condition permanently affects the tooth enamel, leaving white lines on the teeth. In severe cases, it can even cause the teeth to become fragile and chalky.
Fluoride does play an important role, however. It has been shown to decrease tooth decay by 20-40 percent. Fluoride in tap water is sufficient for your child’s daily needs when supported by fluoride toothpastes. (Your child will also receive an in-office fluoride treatment during their biannual exam and cleaning.)
Flossing should occur when back teeth begin to come in. Flossing once a day cleans the sides of the teeth that tooth bristles can’t reach.
Parents protect baby’s teeth by never allowing a baby (or toddler) to be put to bed with a bottle or sippy cup of milk, formula, fruit juice or sweetened liquid. These liquids sit on teeth, breakdown the enamel, and lead to cavities.
Homecare is essential for staying ahead of tooth decay, but must be combined with professional, in-office dental cleanings and exams to safeguard your child. In-office dental exams are the foundation of effective preventive health care. Dr. Botero and her Li’l Sunshine Smiles team can clean your child’s teeth with tools calibrated to remove plaque and tartar. Tartar, or dental calculus, is the yellow/brown colored deposit that results when plaque has time to sit on teeth. Because tartar buildup is bonded to the tooth enamel, it can only be eliminated by a dental professional.
In-office exams are also the time that a dentist can see what you can’t see visually using digital x-rays. This technology allows us to stay ahead of hidden decay, stopping it before it can become serious.
Dr. Botero can also assess your child’s risk of developing other oral problems by evaluating the face, neck, and mouth for abnormalities.
A visit with our friendly staff is a great time for your child to receive education on how what they eat affects how their teeth grow, develop, and stay strong throughout their lives.
Children need diets rich with nutrients and vitamins to support teeth and bone strength and growth. Foods that supply vitamins, calcium, phosphorus, and protein are the foods your child needs. Keep good foods visible where your child can see them.
Sugar and teeth are never a good combination but there are some sugar sources that may at first seem innocuous that are more dangerous to your child’s teeth than others. Besides your obvious candies, be careful with the quantity and timing of breads, yogurts, cereal bars, juices, dried fruit, fruit (gummy) snacks, potato chips, and sports drinks. Clean teeth within a half hour of offering these foods.
If your child doesn’t have sealants already, they are a great tool for safeguarding back teeth from tooth decay that can enter the deep crevices of teeth. Sealants are painted on top of the tooth surface to seal out decay. The CDC reports that once sealants are applied, they offer protection against 80 percent of cavities for two years and continue to fight 50 percent of cavities for up to four years. Applying sealants is simple, painless, and quick, but a powerful decay defense for your child’s teeth.
Call Li’l Sunshine Smiles Dentistry today at 813-576-0200 to schedule an exam and cleaning for your child. We are excited to help you with your oral care journey and welcome you to our dental family!