When my youngest patients come in with a terrible toothache, the reason is often due to neglect in maintaining good dental habits at an early age. February is nationally recognized by the American Dental Association as National Children’s Dental Health Month to stress the importance of maintaining healthy teeth and gums. I encourage all our readers to get themselves and their families in to see their local dentists at least twice a year.
Quick Tips for Parents
Avoid allowing a baby to fall asleep with a bottle in their mouth with any form of carbohydrates, whether it be fruit juice or milk, to avoid baby bottle tooth decay. The decay can enter the underlying bone structure and damage the permanent teeth. Losing a baby tooth that has decay can eliminate space for future permanent teeth, which may then have to be treated with expensive orthodontic treatment.
It is important for children as early as age one to schedule an exam with a dentist, particularly for children who regularly drink from bottles. The ideal time is six months after the first teeth appear.
Stock your refrigerator with teeth-friendly foods such as carrots, celery and other veggies rather than sugar-laden snacks. Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s necessarily good. Fruit juices are natural, but contain sucrose, which is still sugar and just as able to cause decay as refined sugar snacks. I’ve had several mothers bemoan the fact that their little Johnny has cavities saying, “I fed him natural fruits like raisins and granola bars.” If you must buy candy for your children, look for brands containing Xylitol, a sugar that actually inhibits the bacteria that cause decay.
Although we need to brush at least two minutes twice a day, children often brush far less (perhaps 15-30 seconds). A tip I like to tell parents is to give their child a dry toothbrush and have them brush while watching television, and then to brush with normal toothpaste during a commercial break.
It is a good idea to supervise your children’s brushing until they reach a certain age, say when they can dress themselves and tie their own shoes. Also make sure to check their flossing!
Periodontal means “around the tooth.” It is more commonly known as “gum disease” and is a bacterial infection that affects the gums and bone around one’s tooth. People with high levels of bacteria that cause periodontal disease are more likely to suffer from heart disease, strokes, and if they become pregnant, their babies tend to have lower birth weight at delivery. Certain ethnicities are more genetically susceptible to periodontal disease, and Asians are unfortunately more prone to being predisposed to acquiring periodontal disease.
Dr. Mar can be reached at (623) 536-6845 if you have questions. His office is located at 5220 N. Dysart Road, Suite #144.
About the Author: Dr. Nelson Mar graduated from the University of Nebraska Dental School in 1995 with a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree. He completed an Advanced Education in General Dentistry residency at the University of Oklahoma Dental School in 1996, and was awarded a Geriatric Fellowship at the University of Texas Health Sciences in San Antonio. He became a Fellow in the Academy of General Dentistry in 2002 and is a member of the American Dental Association and Central Arizona Dental Association.