Tooth decay (dental caries) affects children in the United States more than any other chronic infectious disease. Untreated tooth decay causes pain and infections that may lead to problems; such as eating, speaking, playing, and learning.
The good news is that tooth decay and other oral diseases that can affect children are preventable. The combination of dental sealants and fluoride has the potential to nearly eliminate tooth decay in school-age children.
What Parents and Caregivers Can Do
Here are some things you can do to ensure good oral health for your child:
- Encourage your children to eat regular nutritious meals and avoid frequent between-meal snacking.
- Protect your child’s teeth with fluoride.
- Use a fluoride toothpaste. If your child is less than 7 years old, put only a pea-sized amount on their toothbrush.
- If your drinking water is not fluoridated, talk to a dentist or physician about the best way to protect your child’s teeth.
- Talk to your child’s dentist about dental sealants. They protect teeth from decay.
- If you are pregnant, get prenatal care and eat a healthy diet. The diet should include folic acid to prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord and possibly cleft lip/palate.
Many parents have a tough time judging how much dental care their kids need. They know they want to prevent cavities, but they don’t always know the best way to do so.Teaching your child proper oral care at a young age is an investment in his or her health that will pay lifelong dividends. You can start by setting an example; taking good care of your own teeth sends a message that oral health is something to be valued. And anything that makes taking care of teeth fun, like brushing along with your child or letting them choose their own toothbrush, encourages proper oral care.
To help your children protect their teeth and gums and greatly reduce their risk of getting cavities, teach them to follow these simple steps:
- Brush twice a day with an ADA — accepted fluoride toothpaste to remove plaque-the sticky film on teeth that’s the main cause of tooth decay.
- Floss daily to remove plaque from between your teeth and under the gumline, before it can harden into tartar. Once tartar has formed, it can only be removed by a professional cleaning.
- Eat a well-balanced diet that limits starchy or sugary foods, which produce plaque acids that cause tooth decay. When you do eat these foods, try to eat them with your meal instead of as a snack-the extra saliva produced during a meal helps rinse food from the mouth.
- Use dental products that contain fluoride, including toothpaste.
- Make sure that your children’s drinking water is fluoridated. If your water supply; municipal, well or bottled does not contain fluoride, your dentist or pediatrician may prescribe daily fluoride supplements.
- Take your child to the dentist for regular checkups.
A dental-school clinic is another option for reduced fee treatment. Students perform the procedures, which helps reduce treatment costs. Experienced faculty members are on site throughout the process to evaluate the student’s work. State dental societies should have a listing of dental schools in the area.
We all know that sugar is bad for teeth, but why? Sweet food and sweet beverages mix with bacteria that are already in the mouth. These bacteria, particularly those known as Streptococcus mutans, digest the sugar and create an acid that attacks the enamel of teeth. When this process has begun, there is an inevitable development of dental caries. Sugars that cause less damage are natural sugars contained in fruits and vegetables. That’s why fruits are recommended for snacks if your child cannot brush his teeth immediately. He must of course clean his teeth as soon as he can, even after eating a fruit.
You must not confuse fruits and fruit juices, which contain much more sugar and considerably damage teeth. For a child who has enough teeth to eat food, the best liquid to be taken when he is thirsty is simply water.
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