There is nothing more beautiful than a child's smile. But that beautiful smile needs your help. Good oral health is not an accident. If you, the parents, take action, you can keep your child's teeth healthy now and for years to come.
It isn't difficult. Follow the simple steps outlined here and your child can enjoy a lifetime of beautiful smiles.
Good oral health practices should begin in infancy and continue throughout adult life. In your child's early years, you must provide this care. Later you will need to instruct, monitor and motivate your child to help maintain good oral health habits.
And don't forget to take care of your own teeth. This is important not only for you, but also for your child. As a parent, you are the most important role model your child can have for learning healthy practices.
Attitudes and habits established at an early age are critical in maintaining good oral health throughout your child's life.
Tooth DecayTooth decay is the major cause of tooth loss in children. Tooth decay, or dental caries, is caused by bacteria. For a tooth to decay, three elements are needed: plaque, food containing sugars and starches, and a susceptible tooth.
When foods containing sugars and starches are eaten, the bacteria in plaque holds these acids onto the teeth, where they attack the enamel for twenty minutes or more. After repeated attacks, the enamel may break down, forming a cavity.
Periodontal DiseasesPeriodontal diseases afflict the gums and bones that support the teeth. Although these diseases are most common among adults, some form of periodontal disease affects 39 percent of children and 68 percent of youths in the United States, according to a recent survey.
Studies show that many periodontal problems which occur later in life could be caused by the neglect of oral care during childhood and adolescence. An early sign of periodontal disease is swollen gums that bleed easily, especially diseases are caused by the bacteria in plaque.
If plaque is not removed by daily brusing and flossing--along with regular professional cleaning by a dentist --toxins created by these bacteria can irritate the gums, making them tender and likely to bleed. If not treated at an early stage, bleeding gums can lead to tooth loss.
Keeping Teeth HealthyTo prevent tooth decay and periodontal disease, toothbrushing and flossing are needed daily to remove the harmful plaque from your child's teeth.
Toothbrushing and FlossingAsk your dentist to recommend a toothbrush for your child. Children need smaller brushes, specially designed for them. Generally, a brush with soft, endrounded or polished bristles is recommended, since it is less likely to injure gum tissue.
All children go through toothbrushes quickly. Check your child's toothbrush often and replace it when it is worn out. Bent or frayed bristles will not clean plaque from your child's teeth, and they can damage the gums.
Brushing removes plaque from the inner, outer and chewing surfaces of the teeth. Select a fluoride toothpaste with the seal of the Food and Drug Administration.
Children should clean their teeth with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste after every meal and at bedtime.
To prevent tooth decay and periodontal disease, toothbrushing and flossing are needed daily to remove the harmful plaque from your child's teeth.
FluorideFluoride is one of the most effective elements for preventing tooth decay. This mineral combines with tooth enamel to strengthen it against decay. Fluoride may also actually reverse microscopic cavities by enhancing the process by which minerals, including calcium, are incorporated into the teeth.
The most effective way for your child to get fluoride's protection is by drinking water containing the right amount of the mineral---about one part fluoride per million parts water. This is of special benefit to children, because fluoride is incorporated into enamel as teeth form. Children who from birth drink water containing fluoride have up to 40 percent fewer cavities. Many of them remain cavity-free proved safe and effective.
Your dentist may recommend various ways to get fluoride protection, including :
DietFor a balanced diet, children should eat a variety of foods from the five major food groups :
An improper diet can contribute to tooth decay. Many factors determine how foods affect your child's teeth. The more often your child snacks on foods containing sugars and starches, the greater the chance for tooth decay. Other major factors include:
The time food is in the mouth. Food such as hard candy and breath mints stay in the mouth a long time, leading to extended acid attacks on the teeth.
Physical characteristics of the food. Raisins, cookies, dried fruits and cereals tend to stick to the teeth and prolong the acid attack.
The time of day a food is eaten. Carbohydrates eaten as part of a meal are less dentally harmful than if they are eaten alone. Foods eaten just before bedtime can stay on the teeth throughout the night.
What is eaten along with the foods. Research indicates that certain foods, such as cheese, may help counter the effects of the acids produced by the bacteria in plaque.
Regular Dental VisitsYour dentist and the other members of the dental health care team play important roles in helping your child maintain good oral health. Regular dental visits will ensure that any dental problems are diagnosed and treated early, when damage is less and restorations are smaller. Take your child to see a dentist by the first birthday, and return for follow-up visits as often as recommended.
You can make an appointment for your child with your own dentist or with a pediatric dentist. Pediatric dentists have special training in dental care for children. A number of parents choose a pediatric dentist to provide theire child's dental care on the same basis that they select a pediatrician to provide their child's mediacal care. Many Children who are apprehensive, or who have medical or emotional problems, can benefit from the pediatric dentist's special training.
The dentist will assess the growth of the child's teeth and jaws, and monitor the eruption and shedding of teeth. When necessary, X-rays will be taken to see how the teeth and facial bones are developing and to find any hidden decay. Your dentist may also advise you on ways to prevet malocclusion and provide you and your child with information on proper home dental care.
SealantsSealants are used to protect the chewing surfaces of the child's back teeth. These surfaces often decay because they contain pits and fissures---tiny grooves and depressions---where plaque accummulates.
Sealants are clear or shaded plastic materials that can be painted onto these decay-prone surfaces of the teeth. By forming a thin covering over the pits and fissures, the sealants keep plaque and food out of the crevices in the teeth, reducing the risk of decay.
Sealants should be applied as the permanet teeth erupt. Ask your dentist if your child can benefit from sealants.
Before The Baby Is BornYour child's teeth begin forming between the third and sixth months of pregnancy. What you eat affects those developing teeth. It is important that you receive sufficient amounts of nutrients, especially vitamin A, C and D, protein, calcium and phosphorus for normal formation of the baby's teeth. A balanced diet usually provides adequate amounts of these nutrients to nourish both you and your child. Your dentist or physician may precribe supplements if your diet is not providing sufficient amounts of important nutrients.
It is not true that a tooth is lost for every pregnancy. Actually, the baby's calcium needs are provided by the mother's diet. If that supply is not sufficient, stores of the nutrient may be drawn from the mother's bones, not her teeth.
Hormone levels increase during pregnancy. This may exaggerate a woman's reaction to the toxins produced by the bacteria in plaque, causing gums to become red, tender and bleed more easily. Removing plaque from your teeth by thorough brushing and flossing, along with regular dental visits, will help your gums stay healthy throughout pregnancy.
Be sure to tell your dental team that you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or think you may be pregnant. This will help them decide the type of treatment that is best for you and your unborn child.
|People usually think of a newborn baby as having no teeth. But the 20 primary teeth that will erupt in the next two and a half years are already present at birth in the baby's jawbones. At birth, the crowns of the primary teeth are almost complete, and the chewing surfaces of the pernanent molars have begin forming. The front four teeth usually erupt first, beginning as early as six months after birth.
Your infant depends totally on you for dental care.
You should begin cleaning the baby's mouth during the first few days after birth. After every feeding, wipe the baby's gums and teeth with a damp washcloth or gauze pad to remove plaque. This establishes at an early age the importance of dental hygiene and the feeling of having clean teeth and gums.
To clean your child's teeth, you can sit on a sofa with the child's head in your lap, or you can lay the child on the floor or a dressing table. Whatever position you use, be sure you can see into the child's mouth easily.
ThumbsuckingSucking is one of a baby's natural reflexes, much like grasping for objects. It is a normal infant habit, which makes the child feel secure and happy.
Thumbsucking usually decreases after the age of two. In some cases, if a child continues vigorous and prolonged thumbsucking past the age of four, if can creat problems with normal dental development. Ask your dentist whether your child's oral habits may cause future dental problems.
TeethingWhen teeth begin erupting, some children may have sore or tender gums. Teething, which may start around six months and continue until age three, can make them irritable. Gently rubbing your baby's gums with a clean finger, a small, cool spoon or a wet gauze pad can be soothing, You can also give the baby a clean teething ring to chew on. If the baby is still cranky and uncomfortable, consult your dentist or physician.
Contrary to common belief, fever is not normal for a teething baby. If your infant has a fever while teething, call your physician.
One to five years
First Dental VisitTake your child to see the dentist by the first birthday. Your child's first visit to the dentist can be a pleasant adventure. Talk about the visit in a positive matter-of-fact way, as you would any important new experience. Explain that the dentist is a friendly doctor who will help the child stay healthy.
During the first visit, the child's mouth will be examined for tooth decay and other problems. The teeth may be cleaned by the dentist. The dentist will explain how the child's teeth should be cleaned at home, how diet and eating habits affect dental health, and methods to ensure that your child gets sufficient fluoride.
Most childern have a full set of 20 primary teeth by the time they are three years old. Primary teeth are just as important as permanent teeth -- for chewing, speaking, and appearance. In addition, the primary teeth hold the space in th jaws for the permanent teeth.
You should start brushing the child's teeth as soon as the first tooth erupts. Flossing should begin when all the primary teeth have erupted, usually by age 2 to 2.5. By age 4 or 5, the child may be able to brush under your watchful eye.
The preschool years are important time to help your child establish good eating habits, since you can control you child's diet successfully. At this age, many children need to eat snacks or "mini-meals." They cannot always eat enough food at meatltime to get all the nutrients and energy they need. Help your child choose sensible snack--foods that don't promote tooth decay.
Primary teeth are as important as permanent teeth.
Six to twelve years
|As your child nears age 6, the jaws grow, making room for the permanent teeth. At the same time the roots of the primary teeth begin to be absorbed by the tissues around them, and the permanent teeth under them prepare to erupt.
The first permanent molars usually erupt between ages five and six, so they are sometimes called the six-year molars. Because the six-year molars do not replace any primary teeth, they are often mistaken for primary teeth. You should remember that they are permanent teeth and must be cared for properly if they are to last throughout your child's lifetime. These molars are especially important because they help determine the shape of the lower part of the face They also affect the position and health of the other permanent teeth.
Sometimes a primary tooth is lost before the permanent tooth beneath it is ready to erupt. If primary teeth are lost too early, nearby teeth can tip or move into the vacant space when the permanent teeth are ready to come into the mouth, there will not be enough room. As a result, they may erupt out of their proper positions, leading to malocclusion. To avoid such future problems, your dentist may recommend using a space maintainer to reserve space for the permanent teeth.
Your dentist may recommend that your child use an over-the-counter fluoride mouthrinse daily, after age six. Be sure to instruct and, if necessary, supervise your child in the use of these mouthrinses. By age 7, Your child should be able to brush alone. Flossing however, is a more difficult skill to master . At about age 8, the child should be able to floss his or her own teeth under your supervision.
Your child's future eating habits are often set during this period. You should explain to your child how foods affect the teeth. Let the child know that clean teeth are less likely to decay and that brushing the teeth after eating can help prevent dental disease.
Your child should continue to visit the dentist regularly. this allows your dentist to identify and treat dental problems at an early stage, before serious damage occurs. During these visits, your dentist will do what is necessary to protect your child form dental disease. Sealants and topical fluoride gels or solutions may be applied to the teeth if needed. The child's teeth will be professionally cleaned to remove calculus and stains.
regular dental visits are especially important during puberty when the body's hormone levels rise. This can exaggerate the way the gums react to the toxins in plaque, increasing the chance for inflammation.