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How to help your child develop healthy dental habits | Dr. Callie Byrd
As I sit here writing this article regarding oral health, my mouth is still numb from the dental work I had done today and I realize that oral health is important throughout our lives, no matter what age we are.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease in the country and children who have cavities are at higher risk of having cavities as adults.
Here are a few important but very easy steps to take to ensure your children have healthy teeth.
Most infants will get their first teeth around 4 months to 1 year of age and will continue to cut teeth until age 2 or 3. From the time a tooth appears it is very important to start taking care of it.
Brush your children’s teeth twice a day as soon as they appear using a soft baby toothbrush for infants and a regular toothbrush for school age children. The best times of the day to brush your teeth are after breakfast and before bedtime. Get your children involved in this routine as early as possible.
Avoid putting your baby to bed with a bottle at night or during naps. Sucking on liquids containing sugar can cause tooth decay and milk, formula, and juice all contain sugar.
Start offering healthy foods and snacks at an early age. Try to avoid sugary snacks and beverages that can lead to tooth decay. Foods rich in calcium and Vitamin D help to keep your teeth and gums healthy; three to four daily servings of dairy and vegetables rich in calcium — dark leafy greens, almonds, salmon, white beans to name a few — are also very beneficial.
Another important factor that helps prevent tooth decay is fluoride. Fluoride is a mineral that helps protect teeth — it reduces decay by strengthening tooth enamel. The AAP, American Dental Association and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all agree that fluoride is a safe and effective way to help prevent tooth decay.
Most water supplies contain fluoride but if you are unsure if your child is getting enough from their normal diet, ask your pediatrician or dentist. Some children require extra fluoride supplementation that is prescribed by your doctor.
It is also OK to use a very small amount — a smear — of fluoride toothpaste on children as young as 6 months of age if they are not receiving adequate fluoride but only under a doctor’s supervision.
It is possible to get too much fluoride, which is why it is very important to consult your pediatrician or dentist if you are not sure if you child needs extra fluoride. Excess fluoride, or dental fluorosis, usually presents itself as white lines on the teeth or brown staining.
If you see any stains or spots on their teeth or if you have any concerns regarding oral hygiene be sure to ask your doctor at your well child checks, or schedule an appointment with a dentist.
The ADA recommends that all children have their first dental appointment by age 1.
If you start introducing good oral hygiene early it will be easy to continue for a lifetime and you won’t find yourself sitting writing an article while recovering from dental work.
Callie Byrd, MD, is a pediatrician at Valley Medical Center’s Covington Clinic South. She can be reached at 253-395-1960 or by emailing AskDrByrd.VMC@gmail.com.