Pediatric Preventative Dental Care
Did you know that the leading chronic infectious disease among children in the U.S. is tooth decay? With all of the advances in oral health and accessibility to the simple tools required, such as toothbrushes, toothpaste and dental floss, it is a surprising fact. That’s why, in February, Alabama Family Dentistry, providing comprehensive preventive dental care and diagnostic treatment for patients living in Birmingham, Gardendale, Warrior, Sumiton, and surrounding communities, celebrates National Children’s Dental Health Month to emphasize the importance of oral health in a child’s overall health and well-being.
In 2014, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) launched a special campaign to focus on the nationwide health threat of tooth decay among children. The educational campaign provided important tools and information to help fight tooth decay, using a “Monster-Free Mouths Movement” theme, where decay was deemed a Mouth Monster.
What Stimulated the Campaign
The following findings were disclosed in the AAPD’s “State of Little Teeth” Report:
• The incidence of early childhood tooth decay is increasing, particularly a form of decay among very young children called early childhood caries.
• Although dental visits within the first year of a child’s life are highly advocated by dentists, such preventative care visits are almost never made.
• Although there does not appear to be a shortage of dentists, there is a shortfall of dentists specializing in treating young children, particularly those covered by Medicaid. Therefore, it appears as if a sizeable portion of the population face barriers in locating pediatric providers.
• There is a need for expanding dental education to train more dentists with the knowledge, skills and willingness to treat children, particularly those with special needs.
What are the Key Steps to Help Parents and Caregivers Instill Good Oral Care Habits?
• Instill healthy oral habits in your child by starting a twice a day cleaning or brushing routine as soon as their first tooth erupts.
• Schedule a “test visit” so your child can get used to the smells and sounds of the office.
• Use this time to ask any questions you may have. You can also bring your child with you to one of your dentist visits. Then, your child can see firsthand what the appointment is like.
• By age 2, or when your dentist at Alabama Family Dentistry recommends, choose a tooth cleaning product that contains fluoride.
• Explain to your children why it is important to not get cavities and what they need to do to be safe using explanations and available internet tools little ones can understand.
You Can Help your Child Prevent Tooth Decay
Babies Younger than 8 Months.
Newborns and young babies only need breastmilk or formula. When your baby is old enough to drink something other than milk, water is the best option. Contrary to widespread belief, juice is not a healthy choice for developing teeth. When your baby is 6-8 months, it’s usually time to start providing a sippy cup for drinking. For the majority of babies, a bottle isn’t actually necessary after 12 months of age, although many are reluctant to give up the bottle for the security it provides. Avoid giving your baby sweetened milk, fruit juice or other sweetened beverages. These will increase the risk of tooth decay. At this stage you can wipe your baby’s teeth with a soft cloth or gently brush their teeth with a soft pediatric toothbrush.
Older Babies, Children and Teenagers
Children need a wide variety of healthy foods and snacks. Whole grains, lean meats, vegetables and fruits that are low in processed sugar are best. Avoid giving your children sweets, cookies, candy, ice cream or cupcakes as treats. When your child does eat something sweet, which is inevitable at birthday parties and holiday celebrations at that age, drinking a glass of water or eating what is considered a ‘tooth-friendly food’, such as cheese, cut up vegetables, or other non-carb based food choice afterwards can reduce the amount of acid on teeth. If they are able to chew gum without swallowing it, sugar free brands containing xylitol can help stimulate saliva to flush out the mouth.
The longer food and drink stays in your child’s mouth, the more chance there is for acid to develop and cause damage to tooth enamel. This means that nibbling foods and sipping drinks over longer periods of time is more likely to cause problems. Encourage your child to establish a twice per day oral care routine of brushing and flossing (with your help) to prevent premature tooth decay.
Mouth Monsters is a program created by the AAPD to bring attention to pediatric dental care and encourage children to actively participate in caring for their teeth. With characters like “Tartar The Terrible”, “Tooth D.K.”, and “Ginger Bite Us”, kids are bound to be more enthusiastic about dental care. Participants will receive a Mouth Monster Defense Kit that contains a tooth brush, stickers, a daily tracker and more. Mouth-Monster Movement resources are available to download at the link above.
It is important to keep your child healthy and smiling bright. By starting annual preventive care at an early age, your child will be on the right path for a lifetime of good dental health. If your child is over 6 months old, or already has some baby teeth and you haven’t brought your child in to visit one of Alabama Family Dentistry’s convenient offices servicing patients in Birmingham, Gardendale, Warrior, Sumiton, and surrounding communities, now is the time. We’d love to welcome your child to a lifetime of healthy teeth.