By Christina Cook, RDH, ECP II, Dental Hygienist at Health Partnership Clinic
February marks Children’s Dental Health Month, and it’s an excellent time to think about prevention and starting healthy habits.
At Health Partnership Clinic (HPC), we understand the importance of preventing problems and not just treating problems when they arise and that is why we recommend oral hygiene habits begin prior to the first tooth.
Your child’s gums should be wiped twice a day with a soft, clean cloth in the morning after the first feeding and right before bed to wipe away bacteria and sugars that can cause cavities. This also gets your child accustomed to the act of cleaning the mouth and the feeling of a clean mouth. Once the teeth begin to erupt you can brush twice a day with plain water.
Children should make their introductory trip to the dentist when their first tooth appears or on their first birthday, whichever comes first. The first visit to the dentist is consider a “happy visit”. The purpose of this visit is to introduce them to the dental office, review hygiene habits, provide nutritional recommendations and perform a growth and development check. It is important that you follow the recommendations of the dental professionals because the enamel of the tooth (hard outer layer) is much thinner and softer on baby teeth, making them at greater risk of decay. Once a cavity starts, they can grow faster and lead to pain quicker than on an adult tooth. The good news is with regular checkups, a healthy diet and good oral hygiene habits cavities are preventable.
Tips for Preventing Tooth Decay in Children
- Brush the teeth twice a day using the correct amount of toothpaste based on the child’s age.
- Although children want to do things on their own, they are not able to do a good job brushing their teeth until they can tie their shoes and even then, they should be supervised until age 11.
- Many times, baby teeth have spacing which allows the toothbrush bristles to clean between the teeth. Once the teeth are touching it is recommended to floss once a day at nighttime to prevent cavities between the teeth. Your child will also need assistance with flossing until around age 11.
- My biggest nutritional tip I can give is limit sugary drinks and snacking. A small amount of milk and juice is okay with a meal, but plain water is recommended between meals. When choosing snacks choose whole foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts and cheese opposed to processed foods like chips, cookies and candies.
- Visit a dentist every six months to detect problems early and to prevent future problems. Also ask your dentist about Fluoride varnish treatments to strengthen the teeth and sealants to protect the chewing surface of the back teeth.
HPC provides dental services to children and teens and accepts Medicaid and other insurance plans. We also offer a sliding fee discount program for those who qualify.
To schedule an appointment, call 913-648-2266.
To learn more about our services, visit https://hpcks.org/our-services/dental/.