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Column: Vital oral health care routines for children

4:05 PM, Feb. 22, 2013  |  Comments
Dr. William Horton
Dr. William Horton
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Being a parent takes a lot of hard work and dedication. One of the areas many parents have questions about is their children's dental health and ongoing care needs. I'd like you to know that our team of child-centered pediatric dental health professionals is ready to assist when you need us.

Each February, we celebrate National Children's Dental Health Month by bringing awareness to the importance of scheduling regular dental checkups and practicing oral health routines at home that will help ensure that your children will enjoy a healthy mouth throughout their life.

I'd like to share some general guidelines to help you make the very best decisions regarding your children's dental care, what is important as they grow, and what to discuss with your child's Pediatric Dentist during visits.

It's not widely known that you actually should begin good oral hygiene with your infant. We recommend that you use a wet gauze or clean washcloth to wipe the plaque from your baby's teeth and gums. Avoid putting your child to bed with a bottle filled with anything other than water. Discourage any early habits of thumb sucking and limit the use of a pacifier, as both can negatively impact the positioning of teeth.

As soon as your child's first tooth appears, we suggest daily brushing with a small, soft toothbrush. You can use a pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste on the brush after your child is old enough not to swallow it. By the time your children are 5, they should be able to brush their own teeth twice a day with your supervision. We recommend that a parent supervise children until about age 7 to make sure they are doing a thorough job. However, each child is different, so if you have questions, your Pediatric Dentist can help you determine whether the child has the skill level to brush properly.

We also recommend that you introduce flossing between teeth that are tight together. Floss your child's teeth until he or she can do it alone.

Research shows that 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. Children who snack frequently have a greater chance for tooth decay. If your child must snack, choose nutritious foods such as vegetables, low-fat yogurt, and low-fat cheese that are healthier and better for their teeth.

Make sure older children brush their teeth at least twice a day. Also, limit the number of snacks containing sugar that you give your children.

I, along with the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, recommend visits to a pediatric dentist every six months, beginning at your child's first birthday.

A pediatric dentist may also recommend protective sealants or home fluoride treatments for your child. Sealants can be applied to your child's molars to prevent decay in the deep grooves. Sealants are applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (premolars and molars) where four out of five cavities in children develop. Sealants act as a barrier to food, plaque and acid, thus protecting the cavity-prone areas of your child's teeth.

Remember, routine dental visits when your child is young will start them down the path to a lifetime of good oral health.

Dr. William Horton is a Pediatric Dentist and part of the Pediatric Dentistry team at the Dental Clinic of Marshfield. For more information about pediatric dentistry, or to schedule an appointment, contact the Dental Clinic of Marshfield, or visit www.dentalclinicofmarshfield.com.

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