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Dr. Edwards' Blog

Seven Tips to Protect Your Child's Oral Health - Feb. 25, 2013

As we wrap up National Children's Dental Health Month, we want to share  tips for helping keep your kids' teeth healthy. 

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, more than 40% of children have dental decay when they enter kindergarten.  Dental decay is the Number #1 preventable disease attacking our nation's children.  Fight back with this 7-step game plan:

1.  Start Oral Care Early -- The experts advise you to start brushing once the first tooth erupts.  Take your child for a dental visit by the time he or she is a year old.

2.  Teach the Brush and Floss Habit  -- Even before that first tooth erupts, get your child used to cleaning his/her mouth.  You can use gauze or a soft washcloth to rince out the mouth.  Once more teeth come through, start the good habit of daily flossing.  And be aware that your child will need your help with oral hygiene for many years.  "Parents have to clean the teeth until children are able to tie their shoes or write in cursive," says Beverly Largent, past president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.  During dental visits, ask your dentist if your child's teeth need fluoride protection or dental sealants.

3.  Avoid "Baby Bottle Decay" -- For years, pediatricians and dentists have been cautioning parents not to put an infant or older child down for a nap with a bottle of juice, formula, or milk.  If you must give your child a bottle at naptime, be sure it contains only water.

4.  Control the Sippy Cup Habit -- Most parents will use sippy cups to transition children from bottles to regular cups.  And all too often, those sippy cups contain sugary juices.  Juice consumption has been linked to childhood obesity and the development of tooth decay, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.  In its current policy statement on preventive oral health, the organization advises parents to limit the intake of 100% fruit juice to no more than four ounces a day.  Sugary drinks and foods should be limited to mealtimes.

5.  Ditch the Pacifier By 2 or 3 -- Research shows that pacifiers used in the first year of life might actually prevent sudden infant death syndrome.  Pediatric dentists suggest using a pacifier when placing the infant to sleep but not to reinsert it once the baby has drifted off.  Long-term use can be hazardous to dental health.  Sucking too strongly on a pacifier, for instance, can affect how the top and bottom teeth line up (the "bite") or can affect the shape of the mouth.

6.   Beware of Mouth-Unfriendly Medicines -- Many medications that children take are flavored and sugary.  If they stick on teeth, the risk of decay goes up.  Some medications for chronic conditions such as asthma and heart problems can cause an overgrowth of a fungal infection called oral thrush.  Children suffering oral thrush usually have creamy, curd-like patches on the tongue and inside the mouth.  If you child takes medicines for chronic illnesses, ask your child's dentist how often you should brush.  You could be advised to help your child brush as often as four times a day.

7.  Stand Firm On Oral Hygiene -- Despite resistance you're likely to encounter, make sure your children understand they MUST take care of their teeth.  Schedule the brushing and flossing for a time when your child isn't tired and may be more cooperative.  In exchange for cooperation, you might offer an older child the chance to pick out a new toothbrush or specially-flavored toothpaste.  A younger child might be motivated to brush by a sticker or gold stars on a chart.


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