Keeping your child’s teeth healthy
Let´s be blunt for a minute, the truth is that keeping teeth healthy is a lot cheaper, less painful and less of a hassle than it is to treat them once a problem does arise. Here are all the tips you’ll need to keep your children’s teeth healthy.
The most effective method of brushing is to point the brush (using a soft-bristled brush) at a 45 degree angle towards the gums and perform circular motions with the brush. You should apply light pressure at all times to avoid taking off enamel (abrasion) and to prevent soft tissue injury. This circular motion should be performed on all 3 accessible surfaces of the teeth (the surfaces facing the lips/cheeks, those facing palate/tongue and the chewing surfaces.) The recommended total brushing time for a full dentition is 2 minutes (which will of course, be less if your child has 2 teeth in their mouth) and brushing should be done a minimum of twice a day (once in the morning and once before bedtime).
Tooth brushing should begin after the first tooth erupts in the child’s mouth. Even though the bacteria that cause cavities do not really populate the mouth till 15-24 months of age, brushing at an early age allows the child to become accustomed to brushing by the time they are old enough to get cavities. During the period of time when the child is still adjusting to the change, the parent should sit behind the child, preferably in front of a mirror, as this allows for more control and makes a child more comfortable.
As an interesting side note, children who come from “more loving” homes tend to have the cavity causing bacteria populate their mouth at an earlier age because of transmission from the parents (usually the mother.)
Floss should only be used in areas where there is no space between two teeth (as shown in picture.) The floss should be stabilized between your fingers and moved in a vertical motion along the sides of each of the two teeth. Do not simply place the floss between two teeth and take it out. The actual surfaces of the teeth need to be scraped with the floss all the way below the gum line (without causing pain) if possible. Flossing is also recommended in the morning and before bedtime.
Rinsing with any kind of mouthwash should be avoided until about 6 years of age to avoid any harm caused by swallowing. Up until approximately 12 years old, children should be closely supervised during rinsing to avoid swallowing.
There are two main types of rinses important for children. One is a fluoride rinse and the second is an antiseptic mouthwash. Fluoride rinses are important for strengthening enamel and therefore preventing cavities and even the “white spot” lesions caused by braces. Listerine and Crest Pro-Health are two of the most popular antiseptic mouthwashes on the market right now. They appear to have similar efficacy in preventing gingivitis, bleeding gums and cavities Listerine has a high concentration of alcohol, which has many irritating effects to the oral soft tissues and many children dislike the “burning” sensation it leaves in the mouth. Crest Pro-Health is alcohol-free, yet there have been some tooth staining issues reported with it. Fluoride rinses work by using a completely different mechanism to prevent cavities than antiseptic rinses do and therefore both should be used when possible.
The first time your child should see a dentist should be at approximately one year of age. This visit serves to allow the dentist to spot any issues requiring attention at an early stage as well as educating the parents about the child’s oral health and gives the child an early start on getting used to coming to the dentist for regular visits. Upon the first visit, the dentist will usually assess the oral hygiene and the general condition of the mouth and inform you (the parent) how often your child should come back for follow-up appointments.
A Sealant is a type of plastic material which is put on the chewing surface of posterior (“back”) permanent (adult) tooth to prevent cavities. Sealants are conventionally placed as soon as these teeth fully erupt. The first permanent molars typically erupt at six years of age. Sealants provide a physical barrier to the cavity-causing bacteria. They are placed in the areas where there are pits and fissures (small crevices and holes where bacteria love to live and can easily break through the enamel.) Smooth surface (such as between the teeth) cavities are typically prevented with fluoride.
We could write several long articles with some tips to keep those choppers happy, but we will just mention some of the main ones here.
- Never let your child go to sleep with a bottle of anything that contains sugar (which includes milk) in their mouth
- Frequency of carbohydrate (e.g. sugar) consumption is the most important diet factor in controlling cavities. It is much better for your child’s teeth if they drink a glass of juice over the course of five minutes as opposed to sipping it here and there for two hours.
- Try to avoid juices and non-diet sodas as often as possible and if your child does drink juice, try diluting it with some water
- Some of the worst foods to eat are the sticky ones (such as raisins) because the sugar contained in these foods stays on the tooth structure for a long amount of time and allows the bacteria to do their dirty work. Therefore, a pure dark chocolate candy is better for teeth than raisins.
- Brush after meals as often as possible or at least wipe your child’s teeth with some cloth
- Give your child some water after meals
- Once you child is old enough to chew gum, sugarless gum with Xylitol is a fantastic way to keep cavities at bay
- Cheese has anti-cavity properties.