Brushing is the most effective way to remove harmful food and bacteria from your child’s teeth and gums. Brushing in a timely manner after eating prevents the food and bacteria from causing harmful acids which eventually break down the teeth.
As parents, you should clean your child’s teeth starting at birth. You can wipe your baby’s gum tissue following feedings with a wet washcloth. Once teeth have erupted, a soft baby toothbrush can be used with non-fluoridated toothpaste to brush your child’s teeth after mealtime. Children will need their parents help brushing their teeth until they develop the manual dexterity to brush their own teeth effectively.
Once your child can effectively spit out their toothpaste, you may begin using a fluoridated toothpaste to brush. You only need to place a pea-size amount of toothpaste on the brush and attempt to brush for 1-2 minutes. Singing songs or using a timer may help your child brush for the necessary length of time.
It is best to brush really well in the morning following breakfast and again at night right before bedtime. It is also recommended that your child brush or at least rinse their teeth with water after any other meals/snacks throughout the day.
Flossing is the only method to remove plaque and bacteria from in-between the teeth that can not be reached by the toothbrush. Floss is made of a synthetic cord which is inserted and moved in-between the sides of two adjoining teeth. Flossing will remove the plaque and bacteria which cause harmful cavity-causing acids between the teeth. It’s never too early to begin flossing your child’s teeth. Flossing on a regular basis will increase blood supply to the gum tissue reducing the chances of developing cavities and gum-disease (gingivitis, periodontal disease).
Fluoride is recommended by the American Dental Association and American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry as a safe and effective adjunct in reducing the risk of cavities. Fluoride, which is found in city drinking water, many food products, and toothpastes/mouth rinses, is absorbed into and strengthens tooth enamel. In the office, we use a fluoride varnish which is applied directly to the teeth to boost fluoride intake of the enamel.
Mouth rinses have many benefits to your teeth and gums such as freshening breath, preventing or controlling tooth decay, reducing plaque and gingivitis, and reducing the formation of plaque or tartar on the teeth.
Most mouth rinses are available without a prescription. It can be used before or after brushing and flossing, but is not a substitute for brushing or flossing. The use of a fluoride mouth rinse is not recommended for patients who can not spit it back out after rinsing. When buying a quality mouth rinse, it is important to look for the ADA seal statement in a box on the product label which assures that the product has been evaluated for its safety and effectiveness.
Sealants are a tough, plastic material that protect the grooved and pitted surfaces of the teeth, especially the chewing surfaces of the back teeth where most cavities in children are found. Sealant application is quick, easy, and can be completed at your child’s initial or recall visit. The tooth is first cleaned, then a sealant material is brushed onto the grooves of the tooth and hardened with a special curing light. Sealants do not last forever and will need to be replaced as they wear away from the tooth surface.
A balanced diet is important for your child’s overall health and dental health. It is important to eat a variety of foods from each of the five major food groups: breads/cereals/grain products, fruits, vegetables, meat/poultry/fish, and milk/cheese/yogurt.
Foods and drinks that are eaten as part of a meal cause less harm to the teeth. More saliva is produced when eating a meal which helps wash foods from the mouth and helps lessen the harmful effects of acids on the teeth.
Children should eat healthy snacks in between meals such as cheese, raw vegetables, plain yogurt or a piece of fruit. If less healthy snacks/drinks with a lot of sugar are introduced in between meals, there is a higher chance of the sugar causing tooth decay. Each time you eat food or drinks with sugar, the teeth are attacked by acids for 20 minutes or more. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends only 6-8 ounces (1 cup) of juice for children per day. Juice and milk should be given at mealtime only, and in between meals, if your child is thirsty, they should drink only water.