At San Ramon Children’s Dentistry and Orthodontics, we always stress the importance of maintaining a good oral hygiene routine with our patients and their families. Tooth decay is a preventable disease that results from the bacteria that naturally occur in the mouth and sugars in the diet. Sugars (carbohydrates) cause the bacteria to produce acids that break down the minerals in teeth, forming a cavity.
Achieving a clean, healthy smile has two main components: preventative care at the pediatric dentist’s office and preventative care at home. By developing a good dental routine, you may be able to eliminate the risk of dental cavities for your child.
How can a pediatric dentist help my child?
The pediatric dentist can:
- examine the teeth for signs of early decay
- monitor the jaw and tooth development
- demonstrate good oral hygiene techniques
- advise parents and children on dietary issues
- discuss strategies for the cessation of oral habits, like thumb sucking and pacifier use
- monitor the child for orthodontic needs
- provide additional tools to prevent cavities, such as topical fluoride and dental sealants
How can I help at home?
A good prevention plan at home includes many factors:
- Brushing – Children’s teeth should be brushed a minimum of two times per day using a soft bristled brush. A pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste can be used once your child is old enough to rinse and spit. We ask our parents to help with the brushing process until the child is capable of doing a thorough job (usually around 8-10 years old). For babies, parents should clean the gum area with a soft, wet gauze pad or wash cloth after each feeding. A soft bristled toothbrush with a very small head, preferably one designed for infants, should be used as your child gets older.
- Flossing – Tooth-brushing alone cannot clean the tight spaces between the teeth. Flossing helps to clean these hard-to-reach tooth surfaces and can reduce the chance of getting cavities and gum disease in these areas. We recommend helping your child floss at night, until he/she is able to floss independently. Gum bleeding is common when a child begins to floss. This bleeding can stop once the bacteria are removed and the gums have a chance to heal.
- Diet – Healthy eating habits lead to healthy teeth. Children should be eating a diet that is well-balanced and nourishing. Sugars (carbohydrates) in the diet cause the bacteria to produce acids, which in turn break down tooth structure, causing a cavity. Therefore, diets that are high in sugary foods (candy, juice, etc.) should be modified. Avoid sticky snacks, such as fruit roll-ups, gummy bears, granola bars, and raisins; these snacks can be very harmful to your child’s teeth. Parents should provide children with non-sugary alternatives like cheese, carrot sticks, and low-fat yogurt.
- Oral habits – Sucking is a natural reflex that relaxes and comforts babies and toddlers. Though these habits generally cease over time, some children are much more committed to the habit than others. Typically, dentists recommend stopping the habit between 2 to 4 years of age. Prolonged habits can cause improper growth of the jaws and misalignment of the teeth. Ask the pediatric dentist on strategies on thumb sucking and pacifier cessation.