February is just around the corner and February is Children’s Dental Health Month. You want your child’s teeth to be the healthiest they can be, right? So beyond brushing, flossing and taking your child to the dentist regularly, what are some things that you can do for your child’s dental health?
Be a good role model: Like it or not, your children take their cue from you. If they see you putting emphasis on your oral health, they’ll think theirs is important too. Though when times are tough, it’s tempting (and admirable) to put your child first, this is a case where “do as I say, not as I do” will eventually backfire.
If you make your child go to the dentist, but never go yourself, your child starts to think that dental care isn’t that important. When old enough to make his or her own decisions, your child may not place the value on dental care that it deserves. All the effort you put into your child’s dental health can be erased in as little as a year. It takes that short a time for a cavity to reach the nerve of a tooth under the right conditions.
One of the main reasons people avoid the dentist is fear. Even though you might think you are hiding your fear of the dentist from your child, he or she will pick up on it. Because your child trusts you, he or she will think “if mom or dad’s afraid of the dentist, I should be too.” Fear of the dentist is learned; don’t let your child learn it from you. If necessary, talk to your dentist about your fears and concerns and see if there is a way she or he can help you. There have been a lot of changes in dentistry over the years. There may be a new way to do your dental care that will help you. We all have to do things we don’t like in life—showing your child that you value your teeth enough to go in spite of not liking it will teach an important life lesson in addition to the dental one.
Sealants: Sealants are a coating placed over grooves on the chewing surface of your child’s back teeth. They prevent food and bacteria from entering grooves and pits where the cavity process is likely to start. Most back teeth have pits and grooves on the chewing surface. Some people have very shallow ones while others have deeper, narrower ones. Sometimes the grooves and pits are so narrow that the toothbrush bristle can’t reach the food and bacteria. (Remember bacteria are microscopic, your toothbrush bristle is not!)
A sealant takes that rough surface and makes it smooth—almost like an ice rink. The food slides across the smooth surface rather than packing down into the tooth.
Sealants are easy to do—no numbing required. They’re most often done on adult (permanent) molars but can be done on any back tooth—whether adult or baby teeth. You can learn more about sealants here: Sealants
Make wise food choices: A healthy, balanced diet which limits sugars and starches is the best choice. Sugar activates bacteria in the mouth that cause tooth decay. Starches, such as breads and potatoes, are broken down into sugars in the mouth and have the same effect. Each exposure to sugar results in 20 minutes of cavity-causing-bacteria activity. So it is best to eat your sweets with your meals instead of as a separate snack.
Acidic foods such as citrus fruits or sour candies also increase the chance of cavities, so these should also be eaten on a limited basis.
Beverages are an often overlooked area of the diet. Water, milk and 100% juices are best for tooth health. Read labels carefully! The label may show 100% in large print, but the smaller print may say 100% vitamin C rather than 100% juice. Many of the drinks that children like are mostly sugar. Some examples are Sunny Delight, Gatorade and other sports drinks, energy drinks, and Hi-C.
If you have any questions about sealants, foods that are good for the teeth or dental care in general, please call my office at 440-960-1940 or find us online at www.drjrobb.com. If you’ve put off dental care for a while, why not use Children’s Dental Health Month as the incentive to start anew. We’d love to see you!
*Note: Information in this article is not meant to replace the clinical judgement of your healthcare professionals.
Dr. Jennifer Robb is a general dentist who sees both adults and children at her practice located at 1320 Cooper Foster Park Rd. W in Lorain, OH.