What is preventative dentistry?
The days of false teeth and dentures are in the past. It is now expected to retain all your natural teeth throughout your lifetime, and every measure is taken to prevent the loss/extraction of an adult tooth. The care and awareness of the mouth and teeth needs to start from birth. Children who have a healthy, cavity free primary dentition, usually have a strong, healthy adult dentition with fewer problems. One of the key elements in maintaining healthy teeth starts with good preventive strategies. It is important to find a dentist that practices preventative dentistry and focuses on the prevention of dental decay.
Does your dentist practice preventative dentistry measures?
Birth – 1 year of age
During the first year of your baby’s life is an exciting time of learning and experiencing the world. Your baby will encounter new sensory experiences every day. From birth you must clean your baby’s gums and sulci (the space where milk collects between the cheek and the gums) and the tongue. Using a soft piece of gauze in the mouth in conjunction with a xylotol based (fluoride free) age appropriate toothpaste to clean the mouth twice daily will reduce the risk of Candida infection (thrush) and will reduce the amount of bacteria living in the mouth. At 6 months of age (or when the first tooth appears) it is time to move onto a natural rubber finger brush. Massage your baby’s gums and brush their newly erupted teeth with Xylotol based toothpaste.
Frequent eating of foods high in sugars and starches promotes tooth decay. Xylitol may reduce the risk of tooth decay if used whilst maintaining a low sugar diet. Many large-scale clinical studies have shown it to have long-lasting dental benefits. Over 25 years of clinical testing confirms that Xylitol is the best sweetener for teeth, which has led to official endorsements by dental associations in Finland, Norway, Sweden, England, Ireland, Estonia and the Netherlands of products containing high levels of this sweetener. A toothpaste containing Xylotol is one of the proven methods of reducing acidity in the mouth and reducing the incidence of dental decay.
Your child’s first visit to their dentist should coincide with their first birthday. Do not expect too much from your child at this stage, however it is an important time for your pediatric dentist to educate you about the dos and don’ts of taking care of your child’s teeth. Let your baby play in the dental chair, spend time getting to know their new dentist and become familiar with the dental setup at the practice. Every positive experience at the dental surgery will reinforce a good relationship with their dentist and build trust.
At one year of age it is time to bid farewell to your baby’s nighttime feeding habits. At this age, infants no longer require any milk for additional nutrition, as their nutritional needs should be met in full with solid meals during the day. Milk bottles after one year of age serve only as a pacifier and this habit is extremely difficult to break. Milk bottles/breast feeding before bed or during sleep time will wreak havoc on your child’s immature, newly erupted teeth. Nursing bottle caries occurs in infants who are left to suck on a milk bottle/breast fed throughout the night. Sugary drinks (fruit juice, honey sweetened tea) given in a bottle/sippy cup will also result in rampant decay of your infant’s teeth. Give only water at night. Never dip your baby’s pacifier in honey or any other sweetener.
2 -3 years old
By the time your child reaches 2 years of age, they should be familiar and completely comfortable with their dentist. They should feel happy to sit alone in the dental chair and experience having their teeth polished and inspected by their dentist. Children should visit their dentist every 5 months throughout their childhood. At approximately 2 ½ year of age, you should initiate a flossing routine. Flossing the teeth should be done every night after brushing. If practiced regularly, it will setup a lifelong habit of flossing for your child.
The fissures are the grooves present on the top surface of molar teeth. These run deep within the tooth’s structure and their full depth cannot be penetrated during brushing by toothbrush bristles. For this reason, your pediatric dentist will place sealants to close up these fissures. This prevents dental decay occurring in the fissures- one of the most common sites of dental decay in children’s teeth. Fissure sealants can be placed as early as 2 ½ years of age, if your child is compliant and relaxed in the dental chair.
It is essential to brush your child’s teeth in the morning and at night. Regular removal of plaque from the teeth is the only way you will effectively prevent dental decay. If your child puts up a fight when it is time to brush teeth, nothing sends the message home faster than a dental check up, cleaning and a chat with the dentist. Your pediatric dentist has many tricks up their sleeves when trying to convince and teach children the importance of brushing. Once again, a good relationship between your child and their dentist will prove highly beneficial when trying to motivate and improvement in their brushing habits.
Many thousands of years ago, dental decay did not exist. The reason for this lies in the diet of prehistoric man. Early man had a diet high in raw fruits and vegetables and a relatively low protein content. Food was also very fibrous with zero refined carbohydrates and very low sugar content. They drank only water.
Minor dietary changes will make a great impact on the health of your child’s mouth. Fruit juice is extremely acidic and destructive. Children should drink only water. Limit the intake of refined carbohydrates like potato crisps, bread, muffins, cake, and cookies. Do not allow unhealthy between meal snacking. Give only sugar free between mean snacks. Steer clear of sticky sweets like fizzers, toffees and suckers.
Prevention is better than cure
Above all else, develop a trusting, positive relationship with your dentist. If you and your child trust your dentist and visit regularly, the road ahead will be a smooth, cavity-free journey.