Let your child’s smile shine

by Senior Airman Xavier L. Torres
86th Dental Squadron

As your children begin to grow and develop, so should the parent’s knowledge regarding the prevention of dental disease and injuries. Parents play an essential role during these ever-changing years to help protect the health of their children’s teeth and gums.

Most young children are simply not aware or concerned about the health risks associated with oral trauma or the consequences of unhealthy oral hygiene practices. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the parents to ensure their children are protected from oral injuries and to minimize the risk factors that may result in dental diseases.

Children are extremely susceptible to cavities as soon as their first tooth erupts. Parents should anticipate the first tooth to erupt around 6 months to 1 year of age. According to the World Health Organization, dental diseases are the most prevalent chronic diseases. An estimated 5 billion people worldwide suffer from tooth decay.

Decay often occurs in the presence of lingering tooth plaque.  Plaque is a colorless layer of bacteria that forms on the teeth if not brushed away. These bacteria feed on food particles in the mouth that have been leftover by not brushing and produce acids, which destroy tooth enamel. The presence of acid in the mouth eventually leads to tooth decay or cavities.

Another result of plaque is gingivitis, or swelling of the gums. Gingivitis is very common in children; it causes gums to swell and bleed and can be painful for children. This is easily preventable by proper brushing and flossing techniques.

To prevent irreversible damage or decay to teeth, proper oral hygiene under the direct supervision of parents is essential.  Parents should brush their children’s teeth until the child is old enough to tie his or her own shoes. Children’s teeth should be brushed after every meal or at least two times a day. Once children are old enough to brush their own teeth, parents should still continue to monitor and provide proper brushing demonstrations to their kids as their skills develop and improve.

Prevention tips!

• Children should avoid sugary consumption, such as candy, soda and acidic drinks. If consumed, it is important to brush away the sugary substances before bedtime.

• Have an “on-the-go” kit consisting of a tooth brush, floss and tooth paste.

• Brush your children’s teeth at least two times a day, and remember to floss.

• Use an American Association of Dentistry approved soft bristled tooth brush.

• If the local drinking water supply is not fluoridated, then it is recommended that young children drink fluoridated water. This will help prevent tooth decay.

• Give your baby only plain water in a baby bottle before bed. Anything other than water placed in a baby bottle to aid sleeping will rapidly decay teeth. This disease is referred to as “baby bottle syndrome.”

• Supervise your children closely while playing; oral trauma can lead to deformed teeth or “malocclusion” meaning a distorted bite.

• Ask your dental specialist if your child would benefit from a preventive procedure called “sealants.” Sealants are clear, plastic-like material placed on the tops of teeth to fill deep grooves and help prevent caries.

Knowing and being informed on early childhood tooth development will help you take better care of your children’s teeth and oral health. Also, being a positive influence toward oral health to your children will go a long way. After all, kids want to be just like Mom and Dad.

Try getting your child to brush on their own by encouraging them and acknowledging their efforts. Parents’ involvement will certainly lead to a better quality of oral health for the entire family.

Little Teeth, Big Smiles is a weekend clinic that will be held from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. Nov. 8 at the Ramstein Dental Clinic and is for children ages 10 and under. During the weekend clinic, Ramstein dental professionals will provide dental examinations, cleanings, X-rays (as needed) and educational services by appointment only.

If you have any questions or are interested in scheduling an appointment for your child, call the dental clinic at 479-2210 or 06371-46-2210.

Help us help you let your child’s smile SHINE!