Preventative dentistry begins as soon as a child is born. From wiping gums clean of plaque after feeding, to caring for a child's first tooth, parents are participating in preventative dentistry for their baby from day one. Involved dental work later in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood can be painful and expensive, and good oral health impacts the overall well-being of a child.
Maintaining a Healthy Smile
Preventative dentistry encompasses everything from daily activities like brushing and flossing to medical interventions like orthodontics and sealants, to behavioral adjustments like diet and using mouth guards during sports activities. All of these methods of prevention minimize risk for greater problems down the road and help to keep both a child's smile and their overall body healthy.
To provide the best possible care for a child, both parents and a pediatric dentist must be involved. At home, parents help maintain good habits and provide healthy nutrition, while the pediatric dentist provides tooth cleaning, dental interventions and offers guidance for both parents and children.
Tips for Prevention
There are many great ways to help a child's healthy dental development, even before they are born. Maintaining good oral hygiene, keeping up with regular dental checkups, and eating a healthy diet while pregnant can all help the development of healthy teeth and overall well-being for a child after birth. Some studies have also indicated that Xylitol, either chewed in a gum or ingested through supplements, during pregnancy may positively impact a baby's teeth. It's important to discuss any supplements while pregnant with your dentist and medical doctor.
In early childhood, refraining from putting your baby to bed with a bottle of milk, or from giving milk just before bed or naps prevents the buildup of bacteria on the teeth. This buildup, caused by both formula and breast milk, can lead to cavities and baby bottle tooth decay. In addition, the use of sippy cups after a child's first birthday should quickly diminish in favor of standard cups to avoid dental issues from their continued use. Sucking on thumbs, fingers, and pacifiers, while normal and healthy up until age 3, should cease after a child's third birthday to avoid abnormal bite development.
When a child is very young, it is important for parents to make sure their children are spitting out toothpaste after brushing. Slow, chronic ingestion of toothpaste from swallowing can lead to too much fluoride in the body, which may result in discoloration of their permanent teeth (called fluorosis). The best way to tell if a child is getting enough fluoride (or too much) is an examination by a pediatric dentist.
For older children, sports activities can become a big part of their lives. Using mouth guards helps to protect them from dental injuries during sports, and proper education about sugary sports drinks can help them make good choices. These drinks are major culprits for the formation of cavities and are best avoided and replaced with water.
Throughout childhood, providing healthy nutrition is a great way to protect a child's teeth. Processed and sugary snack foods can contribute to cavities and rapid tooth decay, and also lack the proper nutrients that foster the growth of strong, healthy teeth. Plain yogurts, fruits, and vegetables all make great replacements for sugary snack foods and support good oral and overall health.
By preventing dental problems ahead of time, children can grow and develop healthy smiles naturally. Maintaining good oral health throughout childhood development means fewer expensive procedures down the line and more comfort and happiness for your child.