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What should I know about brushing and flossing my child’s teeth?
Begin daily brushing as soon as the child’s first tooth erupts. Below one years old, use a non-fluoridated toothpaste or xylitol toothpaste to cleanse your infant’s teeth. After the age of one, a smear of fluoridated toothpaste should be used if the child is still swallowing, and a pea size amount of fluoride toothpaste can be used after the child is old enough to spit out. By age 4 or 5, children should be learning how to brush their teeth but still require supervision. It is more effective to brush first, then allow the child to practice afterwards. After age 8-9 or when a child can hand write cursively, they should be able to brush their own teeth twice a day. However, each child is different. We can help you determine whether the child has the skill level to brush properly.
Proper brushing removes plaque from the inner, outer and chewing surfaces. When teaching children to brush, place toothbrush at a 45 degree angle; start along gum line with a soft bristle brush in a gentle circular motion. Brush the outer surfaces of each tooth, upper and lower. Repeat the same method on the inside surfaces and chewing surfaces of all the teeth. Finish by brushing the tongue to help freshen breath and remove bacteria.
Flossing removes plaque between the teeth, where a toothbrush can’t reach. Flossing should begin when any two teeth touch. You should floss the child’s teeth until he or she can do it alone. The best type of floss to use with children are floss picks because of their ease of use and handling for parents and children. Use a gentle, back-and-forth motion to guide the floss between the teeth. Curve the floss into a C-shape and slide it into the space between the gum and tooth until you feel resistance. Gently scrape the floss against the side of the tooth. Repeat this procedure on each tooth. Don’t forget the backs of the last four teeth.
How do diet and nutrition affect my child’s teeth?
Healthy eating habits lead to healthy teeth. Like the rest of the body, the teeth, bones and the soft tissues of the mouth need a well-balanced diet. Children should eat a variety of foods from the five major food groups. Most snacks that children eat can lead to cavity formation. The more frequently a child snacks, the greater the chance for tooth decay. How long food remains in the mouth also plays a role. For example, hard candy, chewy candy and breath mints stay in the mouth a long time, which cause longer acid attacks on tooth enamel. If your child must snack, choose nutritious foods such as vegetables, low-fat yogurt, and low-fat cheese, which are healthier and better for children’s teeth. Children that consume very carbohydrate-rich snacks are at a higher risk for developing cavities.
Many parents supplement children with vitamins. However, gummy vitamins should be avoided due to the presence of sugar and prevalence for getting stuck in children’s teeth.
How do I help my child prevent cavities?
Good oral hygiene removes bacteria and the left-over food particles that combine to create cavities. For infants, use a wet gauze/clean washcloth or toothbrush to wipe the plaque from teeth and gums. Avoid putting your child to bed with a bottle filled with anything other than water.
For older children, brush their teeth at least twice a day. Also, watch the number of snacks containing sugar that you give your children.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends visits every six months to the pediatric dentist, beginning at your child’s first birthday or when the first tooth erupts. Routine visits will start your child on a lifetime of good dental health.
Dr. Verma may also recommend protective sealants or home fluoride treatments for your child. Sealants can be applied to your child’s molars to prevent decay on hard to clean surfaces.
How do protective sealants work?
Sealants protect the grooved and pitted surfaces of the teeth, especially the chewing surfaces of back teeth where most cavities in children are found. Made of clear or shaded plastic, sealants are applied to the teeth to help keep them cavity-free.
Even if your child brushes and flosses carefully, it is difficult—sometimes impossible—to clean the tiny grooves and pits on certain teeth. Food and bacteria build up in these crevices, placing your child in danger of tooth decay. Sealants “seal out” food and plaque, thus reducing the risk of decay.
How long do sealants last?
Research shows that sealants can last for many years if properly cared for. Therefore, your child will be protected throughout the most cavity-prone years. If your child has good oral hygiene and avoids biting hard objects, sealants will last longer. Dr. Verma will check the sealants during routine dental visits and recommend re-application or repair when necessary.
What is the treatment like?
The application of a sealant is quick and comfortable. It takes only one visit. The tooth is first cleaned. It is then conditioned and dried. The sealant is then flowed onto the grooves of the tooth and allowed to harden or hardened with a special light. Your child will be able to eat right after the appointment.
How much does it cost?
The treatment is very affordable, especially in view of the valuable decay protection it offers your child. Most dental insurance companies cover sealants. Some companies, however, have age and specific tooth limitations. Check with your benefits provider about your child’s coverage and speak with someone in our office about the exact cost of sealants for your child.
Which teeth should be sealed?
The natural flow of saliva usually keeps the smooth surfaces of teeth clean but does not wash out the grooves and fissures. So the teeth most at risk of decay—and therefore, most in need of sealants— are the six-year and twelve-year molars. Many times the permanent premolars and primary molars will also benefit from sealant coverage. Any tooth, however, with grooves or pits may benefit from the protection of sealants. Talk to Dr. Verma, as each child’s situation is unique.
If my child has sealants, are brushing and flossing still important?
Absolutely! Sealants are only one step in the plan to keep your child cavity-free for a lifetime. Brushing, flossing, balanced nutrition, limited snacking, and regular dental visits are still essential to a bright, healthy smile.