Preventive dentistry requires participation from your child, our dental team, and you. The goal of preventive dentistry is to prevent the development of cavities and gum disease through routine cleanings, check-ups, and dental education from our office. A healthy mouth helps foster a happy and healthy child.
Preventive dentistry begins at home with the appearance of your child’s first tooth, usually around 6 months of age. Even before the first dental visit, you should be cleaning your child’s teeth with a moist cloth after each feeding. By the time your child reaches the age of one, you should schedule your child's initial visit with us. Beginning dental visits early is the key to great dental health as these visits assist us in recognizing and addressing potential problems before they become serious. Dr. Angela and the Alexandria Children's Dentistry staff will teach you how to protect your child's dental health by providing a personalized program of oral hygiene instructions, dietary counseling, and fluoride recommendations if necessary. Becoming an active participant in the preventive oral health program we develop for your child will help ensure your child grows up as part of a cavity free generation.
In addition to the dental exam and cleaning, we will look at your child’s risk for cavities, discuss the prevention of dental injuries, address concerns (if any) about oral habits, encourage mouthguard use, and monitor your child's dental growth and development.
Care of Your Child's Teeth
Begin daily brushing as soon as your child’s first tooth erupts. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends twice daily brushing with toothpaste that has fluoride in it, from the moment the first tooth erupts. A smear of fluoride toothpaste can be used for children who can’t spit out effectively. Only a smear! (Discuss this with your child’s Dentist. Sometimes he/she recommends to use a fluoride-free toothpaste until they can spit all of the toothpaste out!) As soon as your child is spitting all of the toothpaste out effectively, you can advance to allowing your child to brush with a pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste.
A parent should be brushing their child's teeth up to 7 years old. Allow your child to brush their own teeth, but it's very important to brush their teeth after they brush to ensure their teeth are cleaned properly. A great measure of your child's manual dexterity is whether they can tie their shoes or not! If they can tie their shoes, we can discuss the transition of your child brushing their teeth all by themselves with your supervision.
Proper brushing removes plaque from the inner, outer and chewing surfaces. When teaching children to brush, place toothbrush at a 45-degree angle; start along gum line with a soft bristle brush in a gentle circular motion. Brush the outer surfaces of each tooth, upper and lower. Repeat the same method on the inside surfaces and chewing surfaces of all the teeth. Finish by brushing the tongue to help freshen breath and remove bacteria.
Flossing removes plaque between the teeth, where a toothbrush can’t reach. Flossing is necessary when any two teeth touch. But it’s important to start flossing by age 2 just to get your child used to the sensation of flossing. You should floss your child’s teeth until he or she can do it alone. Also, we love the option of flossers. They are really easy for you and your child to use. Flossers are little plastic forks that have just about half an inch of floss. They make flossing easier as they are small and fit in your mouth better than would your fingers!
Use a fluoridated mouth rinse after brushing and flossing before bedtime. For the rinse to be effective, avoid drinking, eating or rinsing after use. Fluoridated mouth rinses should not be used for a child who cannot “spit” out the rinse after use.
Good Diet = Healthy Teeth
Healthy eating habits lead to healthy teeth. Like the rest of the body, the teeth, bones and the soft tissues of the mouth need a well-balanced diet. Children should eat a variety of foods from the five major food groups. Most snacks that children eat can lead to cavity formation. The more frequently a child snacks, the greater the chance for tooth decay. How long food remains in the mouth also plays a role. For example, hard candy and breath mints stay in the mouth a long time, which cause longer acid attacks on tooth enamel. If your child must snack, choose nutritious foods such as vegetables, low-fat yogurt, and low-fat cheese, which are healthier and better for children’s teeth.
We may also recommend protective sealants for your child. Sealants can be applied to your child’s molars and/or premolars to prevent decay on hard to clean surfaces.
Fluoride is an element, which has been shown to be beneficial to teeth. However, too little or too much fluoride can be detrimental to the teeth. Little or no fluoride will not strengthen the teeth to help them resist cavities. Excessive fluoride ingestion by preschool-aged children can lead to dental fluorosis, which is a chalky white to even brown discoloration of the permanent teeth. We will determine the right amount of fluoride your child needs for optimal dental health.
Xylitol - Reducing Cavities
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recognizes the benefits of xylitol on the oral health of infants, children, adolescents, and persons with special health care needs.
The use of XYLITOL GUM by mothers (two to three times per day) starting three months after delivery and until the child was two years old, has proven to reduce cavities up to 70% by the time the child was five years old.
Studies using xylitol as either a sugar substitute or a small dietary addition have demonstrated a dramatic reduction in new tooth decay, along with some reversal of existing dental caries. Xylitol provides additional protection that enhances all existing prevention methods. This xylitol effect is long-lasting and possibly permanent. Low decay rates persist even years after the trials have been completed.
To find gum or other products containing xylitol, try visiting your local health food store or search the Internet to find products containing 100% xylitol.