Good oral hygiene removes bacteria and the left over food particles that combine to create cavities. For infants, use a wet gauze or clean washcloth to wipe the plaque from teeth and gums. Avoid putting your child to bed with a bottle filled with anything other than water. See “Baby Bottle Tooth Decay” for more information.
For older children, brush their teeth at least twice a day. Also, watch the number of snacks containing sugar that you give your children.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends visits every six months to the pediatric dentist, beginning at your child’s first birthday. Routine visits will start your child on a lifetime of good dental health.
Your 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 on hard to clean surfaces.
Seal Out Decay
A sealant is a protective coating that is applied to the chewing surfaces (grooves) of the back teeth (premolars and molars), where four out of five cavities in children are found. This sealant acts as a barrier to food, plaque and acid, thus protecting the decay-prone areas of the teeth.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring element which has shown to prevent tooth decay by as much as 50-70%. For children younger than 8 years old, fluoride actually helps strengthen the adult teeth that are developing beneath their gums. With little or no fluoride, teeth aren’t strengthened enough to help them resist cavities. Excessive fluoride ingestion by young children can lead to dental fluorosis, which is a white discoloration (brown in advanced cases) of the permanent teeth.
The two primary sources of fluoride are fluoridated water, and toothpaste. Fluoridated water is most commonly found in local tap water. Dentists encourage drinking tap water from the sink because a number of water dispensing refrigerators filter out up to 90% of fluoride found in local water. However, charcoal and carbon type water filters such as a Britta filter retain fluoride levels found in local water while still providing filtered drinking water.
For children beneath 3 years of age, use a smear of fluoride toothpaste (the size of a grain of rice) to brush their teeth. For children 3 to 6 years old, use a “pea-size” amount of toothpaste and perform or assist your child’s tooth brushing. To ensure that your child’s toothpaste contains the optimal amount of fluoride, look for the ADA seal of acceptance somewhere on the packaging. Children should not swallow excess toothpaste after brushing, in order to avoid fluorosis. Be sure to follow your pediatric dentist’s instructions on suggested fluoride use and possible supplements.