Establishing Healthy Dental Habits
Question: “Dr. Arnold, what should I do to make sure that my kids don't get cavities?”
Answer: February was Children’s Dental Health Month. I gave several dental health presentations to kids from age four to seven last month, and I was amazed by how much they already knew about their teeth. Our society has placed a much bigger emphasis on dental health over the past decade, and that will help children to develop healthy habits early in life.
We recommend that parents begin brushing their child’s teeth two times each day as soon as they appear. Initially, you should use an infant brush without toothpaste. When your children are able to brush their own teeth, allow them to do so while you watch. They should brush after breakfast and before they go to bed.
It is generally a good idea to follow up by helping them to complete the job. Many children will also respond more positively if they see you brushing your own teeth every morning and/or evening.
Have your kids use a toothbrush, toothpaste, and “flossers” designed specifically for children. This will make them much more likely to continue this healthy habit when they begin taking care of their own teeth.
Some pedodontists (children’s dental specialists) like to begin seeing children by age one. My partners and I generally begin seeing children at the age of three, unless there is some obvious problem before then. It’s a good idea to schedule their first appointment by three in order to ensure that any early problems are attended to quickly and to get them acclimated to visiting the dentist.
Make sure that your kids are eating a balanced diet with items from all of the basic food groups. Limit their junk food and pop intake as much as possible. If you are able to minimize the amount of sweets they eat at an early age, they will be less likely to eat too much of this type of food when they get older.
Additionally, many brands of bottled water do not contain fluoride, so encourage your kids to drink “tap” water because its fluoridation will help strengthen their developing teeth. If you have “well” water, they may even need to take fluoride tablets.
Many kids eat too much “sugary” cereal and drink too much juice. Many types of juice are extremely high in sugar and can increase the likelihood of cavities. It would be wise to check on the packages to determine how much sugar these foods and beverages contain.
If these basic guidelines are followed, and you bring your kids to the dentist consistently while they are children, they are more likely to grow up with healthy teeth and gums.
Dr. Arnold practices dentistry in Chesterton and Valparaiso and is a clinical instructor with the Hornbrook Group, which teaches contemporary dental techniques to dentists from around the country. For more information on this or any other dental topic, please visit: www.SmilesByArnold.com. If you have questions for Dr. Arnold, please send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org or a letter to: 1830 South 11th St., Chesterton, IN, 46304.