Dental disease is one of the most common chronic diseases of the world. Dental treatment is a very common reason for parents to be away from their jobs and children to be out of school. Early dental treatment needs are often a reason a child is sedated or subjected to general anesthesia for the first time. Below are 5 simple steps you can take to prevent the development of dental disease in your child.
1. Brush their teeth at least 2 times a day! Use a soft toothbrush; manual or electric. It matters more that you brush the teeth than the specific kind of brush you use. The reason you do not see claims than one brand or type of toothbrush is better that the other on television ads, is because the companies cannot back it up with evidence. Parents must understand that children cannot brush their teeth alone until they are close to 10 years of age. Children are not consistent. Sometimes kids take their time and do a great job, and other times they are in a rush or just lie about doing it. After they poop you wipe their bottom and after they eat you should brush their teeth. It is just the other end of the same digestive tract. Get in a position where you have good light and brush all surfaces of their teeth. Make sure the place where the teeth and gums come together is a crisp and clean distinction. If it is fuzzy looking, keep brushing. If the gums bleed a little bit, its OK. Clean teeth do not develop dental cavities!
2. Do not put your baby or infant to bed with a bottle or sippy cup. Milk can do just as much damage as juice, soda, or sweet tea. The child will not swallow all the liquid while asleep. The sugar filled liquid will pool on top of the tongue and bathe the top teeth in sugar all night long. The teeth will quickly develop rampant dental cavities. Even if the child screams and cries at bedtime when you take away the bottle, get over it! Over time, any child put to bed with a bottle or sippy cup will require significant dental treatment. As a parent it is hard to listen to your child cry themselves to sleep if they want the bottle or sippy cup, but I promise it is harder to consent to sedation or general anesthesia for dental treatment that you as the parent could have prevented.
3. Another important idea to incorporate is to cook real food. Children will develop eating habits such as likes and dislikes based on what foods you regularly prepare for them to eat. Parents should control their emotions and comments about the food they present to their children. If you say fish or some specific vegetable is gross, it will impact them for life. We have always impressed the ideal that eating salad with a healthy dressing is cool and mature in our house so our children have wanted to eat salads when we make them. Remember you are to provide quality food and they will decide what their preferences will be. Children do not need fast food, processed food, or crap out of a box that you yourself would not eat. Children need a balanced diet of lean meats, fish, vegetables, grains and fruits. Planning for high quality meals can happen even in the busiest households. It just takes intensional thought. You have to decide that your children are going to eat real food and not processed chemical filled crap!
4. Drink Water! Water makes up the majority of our bodies. Only water can truly quench our thirst. Remember water is for thirst and juices are for pleasure just like for adults wine is for pleasure and water is for thirst. Water is necessary for all of the systems of our bodies to function. If you look under the sink at the household cleaners you use, you will find that the cleaners are mostly water with some chemicals added. Water works the same way to clean our bodies as it does to clean your house. Make a commitment to get your children to drink a few glasses of water each day. If you champion this behavior and lead by example, the children will follow! With the increasing epidemic of childhood obesity, all parents need to focus on teaching their children to drink more water and less high calorie sugar drinks!
5. Schedule an appointment with a board certified pediatric dentist in your community within 6 months of the eruption of the first tooth or before the end of the first year of life. Why so young you might wonder? Lots of reasons. If your child has a trauma pulling up, falling down, or learning to walk, it is much better to have an established relationship with a pediatric dental office than to have to go to the local ER. Emergency rooms are full of sick people and the waits for minor traumas can be hours. Prevention of dental cavities is cheaper, safer, and takes less time and energy than treatment. Remember early treatment needs before the child can cooperate are likely to require sedation or general anesthesia. Do not wait until the child has a traumatic event or you see a black rotten spot on a tooth to make the first appointment. One popular catch phrase used today to describe early visits is, “anticipatory guidance.” This term means educate parents about risk of cavities, growth and development, and prepare you for the future. Make your child an appointment today so they will have an established dental home.
In summary, we as pediatric dental care providers understand the science associated with creating optimal oral health. Our biggest challenge is to educate patients and their families. We want to make it cool for parents to be aggressive with prevention, help them make better choices of foods and drinks, and seek early preventive care with the establishment of a dental home. Pediatric dentist jobs are to work themselves out of a job. The Goal of this article is that you will think about some of these tips and improve the life of your child!