Baby dental health important

by Capt. Tonya Barry
86th Dental Squadron

The 86th Dental Squadron’s mission is to keep active-duty members fit to fight and to ensure the dental health of their family members. This February, however, the spotlight is on the pediatric patient pool during the 65th annual National Children’s Dental Health Month.

Pediatric patients and parents generally have numerous questions when it comes to their child’s dental care. Common areas of concern are the first dental visit, dental home care, and how a child’s diet impacts their dental health.

According to the American Dental Association, “It is advantageous for the first (dental) visit to occur within six months of eruption of the first tooth and no later than 12 months of age.” This little tidbit of information is astounding to most parents.
However, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry firmly believes “one dental visit when there’s one tooth can equal zero cavities.”

The critical, first well baby dental visit and lap exam is important to enhance a child’s dental familiarity, and it’s also a forum for parents to ask questions about nutrition, bottle and sippy cup feeding, breast-feeding, fluoride intake, pacifier use, reducing the risk of dental cavities, and dental home care. If your child has yet to have their first dental visit, do not worry. It’s never too late to promote dental health and prevent dental cavities.

A great way to start preventing dental cavities is to teach your child good dental health habits. While it can be challenging at times, dental home care is important. The best approach to maintaining dental health is to brush twice a day, two minutes each time, and floss at least once per day (as soon as your child has two teeth that touch). While a morning or an evening brushing should never be skipped, the night time brushing and flossing is most important. Plaque (that filmy white substance that forms on the teeth) removal is critical before bed because during the day saliva production helps naturally cleanse the mouth. However, at night, salivary flow decreases and residual plaque left on the teeth becomes good fuel for cavity-producing bacteria.

Another piece of information that may be surprising to parents is that children need help brushing and flossing until about age 10 simply because they lack manual dexterity. Until a child can adequately brush and floss their parent’s teeth, they probably still need assistance.

Lastly, it is important to think about nutrition and the role it plays in dental health. As the AAPD points out, “It’s not what the children eat, but how often.”

Of course, some food and drinks benefit dental health more than others. Ideal snacks for teeth are things like fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and cheeses, while the best liquids for teeth are milk and water. Keep in mind that juice should be given in moderation, not to exceed four to six ounces a day. It all boils down to reducing the frequency of food and drink exposure and being conscientious about how your child’s diet impacts their dental health.

In general, caring for teeth, especially children’s teeth, can be challenging. For more information or to make an appointment, call the dental clinic at 479-2210 or 06371-46-2210.