Naples, Florida – Proper dental care for your children should begin before their first tooth even appears. Teeth begin to form in a baby’s mouth during the second trimester of pregnancy, so even though you can’t see them, the teeth are lurking right below the surface.
“Most people might not realize it, but even babies can develop tooth decay,” says children’s dentist Dr. Tamara Robison. “If proper oral care habits aren’t started at the youngest ages, decay can set in. Before babies’ teeth erupt, parents can clean the gums with a clean, damp washcloth. Once teeth erupt, parents can begin to brush with an infant toothbrush.”
Dr. Robison, a pediatrics specialist in Naples, offers several tips for parents to avoid cavities in their children’s mouths.
Many babies may be comforted by taking a bottle to bed. This, however, can cause serious issues with the child’s teeth. Anytime sugars from milk and juice are left on the teeth, they can begin to eat away at the enamel. Overtime, the teeth can become discolored and damaged, and cavities can even occur. In severe cases, the teeth may need to be pulled.
The American Dental Association recommends that children visit the dentist by their first birthday. At their first visit, the dentist with explain how to properly brush and floss, and examine the child’s mouth for any issues. The dentist may recommend beginning fluoride treatments to strengthen the teeth against cavities. Fluoride hardens the enamel of the tooth, making it more difficult for cavities to form.
Cavities form when sugars and acids from food and drinks aren’t brushed away. If left on the teeth, over time, small holes or cavities will form. Fluoride treatments will help strengthen that enamel to make it more resistant to cavities. It is also important that parents check to see if their water is fluoridated as this can help fight cavities as well.
“Proper dental care is an essential lesson to teach our children,” says Dr. Robison, who is also a sports dentistry specialist for kids in Marco Island. “Children should be visiting a dentist, and I always recommend children see a pediatric dentist, specifically. Just as a pediatrician is specially trained to treat children, a pediatric dentist is dedicated to serving the oral health care needs of children. We are uniquely trained and equipped to help them, and to teach proper prevention and maintenance techniques.”
Other tips to remember include:
- Avoid giving your children juice or other sugar drinks whenever possible. Offer water as often as you can.
- Stop giving your children a bottle around the age of 1 and teach them to use a cup. The use of a cup is less likely to allow the sugars in the liquid to pool around the teeth and gums.
- Avoid sweet and sticky foods as much as possible.
It’s also important for parents to understand their own oral health history. If one or both parents are prone to cavities and tooth decay that may mean your children will be, too. If this is the case, parents should pay extra attention to their children’s oral care regimen, and also be aware that sometimes, genetics may prevail over even the best oral care habits.
Once your child is old enough to spit, typically around the age of 2 or 3, parents should begin using training toothpaste to brush their children’s teeth two times a day. Only use a pea-sized amount of tooth paste, and be sure the child can spit it out after brushing. As soon as the child has two teeth together, parents can begin flossing.
Dr. Robison focuses on preventative techniques to help children avoid cavities. Not only does she help children understand how to properly brush and floss to implement a healthy oral care regimen, she also recommends products that can build stronger teeth.
Dr. Robison recommends xylitol products to strengthen her patient’s enamel, when needed. Studies have shown that using 6 to 8 grams of xylitol a day can reduce cavities in children by as much as 80 percent. Xylitol for children can come in the form of wipes, gels, mouth sprays and even candies.
Preventing cavities and creating beautiful smiles begins with parents. From the time their children are born, it is essential for parents to create and maintain proper oral health care routines to ensure their children’s smiles stay bright and healthy.
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