Preventive dentistry is a lifelong commitment. Regularly scheduled preventative treatments can save you time and money while helping you avoid complicated and uncomfortable dental procedures. Preventive dentistry includes periodic examinations, cleanings, sealants and fluoride treatments.
A Daily Problem
Daily brushing and cleaning between teeth are important to your dental health because it removes plaque. Plaque is a thin, colorless, sticky film that constantly forms on your teeth. When you eat foods containing sugars and starches, the bacteria in plaque produces acids, which attach tooth enamel. The stickiness of the plaque keeps these acids in contact with the teeth. After such attacks, the enamel breaks down and a cavity forms.
Long Term Effects of Plaque Build Up
It may surprise you to know that 50% of adults over the age of 18 and 75% of adults over age 35 have some degree of gum disease.
If plaque is not removed with daily brushing, it can eventually harden into calculus (tarter). As calculus forms near the gum line, good oral hygiene is more difficult to maintain and gums can become irritated and inflamed.They become swollen and may bleed. The gums begin to pull away from teeth and form pockets that usually become infected.
If gum disease is not treated promptly, the bone supporting the teeth is destroyed and healthy teeth may be lost. Your dental team can remove calculus from your teeth and treat gum disease that has already appeared. But daily care is in your hands. It’s never too early to start fighting back.
Baby to Permanent Teeth
As your child nears age 6, the jaws grow, making room for the permanent teeth. At the same time, the roots of the primary teeth begin to be absorbed by the tissue around them, and the permanent teeth under them prepare to erupt.
The first permanent molars usually erupt between ages five and six, so they are sometimes called the six-year molars. Because the six-year molars do not replace any primary teeth they are often mistaken for primary teeth. You should remember that they are permanent teeth and must be cared for properly if they are to last throughout your child’s lifetime. These molars are especially important because they determine the shape of the lower part of the face. They also affect the position and health of the other permanent teeth.
Sometimes a primary tooth is lost before a permanent tooth beneath it is ready to erupt. If primary teeth are lost too early, nearby teeth can tip or move into the vacant space. When the permanent teeth are ready to come into the mouth, there will not be enough room. As a result, they may erupt out of their proper position, leading to malocclusion.
To avoid such future problems, your dentist may recommend using a space maintainer to reserve space for the permanent tooth. If a primary tooth does not fall out when it should, your dentist may recommend that it be removed to prevent the irregular eruption of the permanent tooth.
Your dentist may recommend that your child use an over-the-counter fluoride mouth rinse daily after age six. Be sure to instruct and, if necessary, supervise your child in the use of these mouth rinses. By age 7, your child should be able to brush alone. Flossing, however, is a more difficult skill to master. At about age 8, the child should be able to floss his or her own teeth under your supervision..
The most effective way for your child to get fluoride’s protection is by drinking water containing the right amount of the mineral… about one part fluoride per million parts water. This is of special benefit to children, because fluoride is incorporated into enamel as teeth form. Children who, from birth, drink water containing fluoride have up to 40% fewer cavities. Many of them remain cavity-free through their teens.
Fluoride is one of the most effective elements for preventing tooth decay. This mineral combines with tooth enamel to strengthen it against decay. Fluoride may also actually reverse microscopic cavities by enhancing the process by which minerals, including calcium, are incorporated into the teeth.
Even though your regular water supply may be fluoridated, it is still important to discuss with your dentist any additional fluoride needs your child may have. Look for fluoride toothpastes and over-the-counter fluoride mouth rinses that carry the ADA seal. They have been proven safe and effective for their intended use. The advertising claims for these products have been reviewed by the ADA so the claims are accurate and not misleading.
Your dentist may recommend various ways to get fluoride protection, including:
– Drinking fluoridated water at school.
– Taking prescribed fluoride tablets or drops.
– Brushing with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste after age two.
– Using a fluoride mouth rinse for children over age six
People usually think of a newborn baby as having no teeth. But the 20 primary teeth that will erupt in the next two and a half years are already present at birth in the baby’s jawbones. At birth, the crowns of the primary teeth are almost complete and the chewing surfaces of the permanent molars have begun to form. The front four teeth usually erupt first, beginning as early as six months after birth.
Your infant depends totally on you for dental care. You should begin cleaning the baby’s mouth during the first few days after birth. After every feeding, wipe the baby’s gums and teeth with a damp washcloth or gauze pad to remove plaque. This establishes, at an early age, the importance of dental hygiene and the feeling of having clean teeth and gums.
To clean your child’s teeth, place the child in a comfortable position that will allow easy access to his or her mouth.
Remember: Your infant depends totally on you for dental care!
Preparing for the First Dental Visit
Take you child to see the dentist by his or her first birthday. Your child’s first visit to the dentist can be a pleasant adventure. Talk about the visit in a positive matter-of-fact way, as you would any important new experience. Explain that the dentist is a friendly doctor who will help the child stay healthy.
During the first visit, the child’s mouth will be examined for tooth decay and other problems. The teeth may be cleaned by the dentist or dental hygienist. The dentist will explain how the child’s teeth should be cleaned at home, how diet and eating habits affect dental health and methods to ensure that your child gets sufficient fluoride.
Most children have a full set of 20 primary teeth by the time they are three years old. Primary teeth are just as important as permanent teeth, for chewing, speaking, and appearance. In addition, the primary teeth hold the space in the jaws for the permanent teeth.
You should start brushing the child’s teeth as soon as the first tooth erupts. Flossing should begin when all the primary teeth have erupted, usually by age 2 to 2 ½. By age 4 or 5, the child may be able to brush his or her own teeth under supervision.
The pre-school years are an important time to help your child establish good eating habits, since you can control your child’s diet successfully. At this age, many children need to eat snacks or “mini-meals”. They cannot always eat enough food at mealtimes to get all the nutrients and energy they need. Help your child choose sensible snacks – foods that don’t promote tooth decay.
To prevent tooth decay and periodontal diseases, tooth brushing and flossing are needed daily to remove harmful plaque from your child’s teeth.
Look for a toothbrush that bears the ADA seal. They have been shown to be safe and effective for their intended use. The advertising claims for these products have been reviewed by the American Dental Association and the claims are accurate and not misleading.
Ask your dentist to recommend a toothbrush for your child. Children need smaller brushes, specially designed for them. Generally, a brush with soft, end-rounded or polished bristles is recommended, since it is less likely to injure gum tissue.
Check your child’s toothbrush often and replace it when it is worn out. Bent or frayed bristles will not clean plaque from your child’s teeth and they can damage gums. The ADA recommends replacing toothbrushes every 3 months.
Brushing removes plaque from the inner, outer, and chewing surfaces or the teeth. Select a fluoride toothpaste with the seal of the ADA.
Children under six years of age should clean their teeth with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste after every meal and at bedtime.
1. Holding the toothbrush bristles at a 45-degree angle against the gum line, move the brush back and forth with short strokes – half a tooth wide – in a gentle, scrubbing motion.
2. Brush the outer surfaces of all teeth in the upper and lower jaws. Repeat the same method on the inside surfaces and chewing surfaces of all the teeth.
3. Finish by brushing the tongue to help freshen breath and remove bacteria.