How to Help Children Maintain a Healthy Smile
Preventative dental care positively impacts a child’s development. Studies by the CDC show that maintaining healthy teeth and gums in childhood leads to better overall health and wellness in adulthood. While office visits play a critical role in dental prevention, good long-term dental habits usually are developed at home.
By understanding more about preventative care, you can become proactive about your child’s oral health.
What is Dental Prevention?
Preventative dental care means keeping up on dental hygiene and regular check-ups. The American Academy of Children’s Dentistry recommends that dentist visits should start as soon as a child’s first tooth appears or before the age of 1. Establishing a regular brushing routine also plays a major part in preventative care.
How Do Dentists Provide Preventative Care?
During an office visit, a dentist completes a full examination of teeth, jaws, bite, and gums to check on development. They evaluate the risk of tooth decay and growth impediments and create an at-home care plan. Bad oral habits, such as finger sucking, are also addressed to avoid any further damage. Additional preventative measures that your dentist can perform in the office include:
- Fluoride Treatments: Topical treatments that use a high concentration of fluoride improve the health of teeth and reduce the risk of cavities.
- Tooth Cleaning and Polishing: The process of scaling back tartar and plaque around the gum line and teeth, often occurring as part of a routine examination.
- Sealants: Protective coatings that prevent teeth from absorbing cavity-causing bacteria and may significantly reduce the risk of tooth decay.
- Preventative Fillings: A tooth-colored material that helps fill holes and crevices in teeth that are breeding grounds for cavities.
What Role Do Parents Play in Dental Prevention?
While your dentist may develop a plan for care at home, it’s up to you to put it into action. Establishing a daily dental routine solidifies good habits at a young age and makes it easier for your child to continue practicing them. In addition to what your dentist may advise, the American Dental Association recommends:
- Brushing: Children should brush their teeth for two minutes, two times a day, using the toothpaste recommended by their dentist.
- Flossing: As soon as their teeth touch, children should floss at least once a day.
- Mouthguards: These plastic guards help protect teeth from damage during contact sports and also can be used to prevent teeth from grinding at night.
- Nutrition: Frequent eating of foods high in sugar causes tooth decay; it’s important to encourage eating dairy or vegetables to help maintain strong teeth.
Parents can use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush to brush babies’ teeth. Your dentist will advise you when it’s time to start flossing or use a mouthguard.
As your child’s teeth develop, be sure to examine them regularly. Check for lines or discoloration that may be signs of tooth decay. If you notice any irregularities, call your dentist to set up an appointment. Being proactive about your child’s dental health helps prevent cavities and ensures they have a healthy smile for years to come.