SERVING THE GREATER BIRMINGHAM AREA
Preventive dentistry relies on good oral hygiene and regular dental care; and is important throughout your life, whatever your age. By helping your child practice good oral hygiene at home and visiting Pediatric and Adolescent Dentistry regularly, you will help prevent dental problems and save time and money. You will also lay the foundation for your child’s lifestyle of good dental health.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring substance found everywhere in soil, air, water, plant and animal life. Teeth that are developing require minerals that they receive from the bloodstream. It was once believed that fluoride, when ingested and delivered systemically in the form of a supplement, is incorporated into the enamel of the tooth resulting in a mineral structure that is stronger and more cavity resistant. Although some fluoride does indeed get incorporated into your enamel when systemically delivered, it has been shown by modern research that this has a negligible effect on caries resistance.
Your real benefit is derived from the topical effect. It may seem odd then that studies show that children who drink fluoridated tap water have 50% to 75% less dental disease. The real reason behind that interesting fact is due to the topical effect of the fluoridated drinking water passing through the teeth as it is swallowed or from its use during brushing and rinsing. However, too much ingested fluoride at an early age (particularly between the ages 3 to 6 years) can discolor your child’s developing teeth making them irregular (mottled) in appearance with whitish or brownish stains.
Although you may not realize it, your child may be receiving fluoride from many sources: tap water, infant formulas, reconstituted juices, toothpaste and even the food they eat. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends using non-fluoridated bottled water to mix with infant formula if your infant derives nutrition solely from infant formula that’s not ready-made, particularly if your water supply is fluoridated.
Depending upon the level of fluoridation of the water in your area, our dentist may prescribe a fluoride supplement for your child. If so, ensure your child swishes fluoride drops around the mouth with the tongue before swallowing, lets fluoride tablets slowly dissolve in the mouth or chews the tablets and spreads them around the teeth with the tongue. The best time for your child to take fluoride supplements is after brushing the teeth at night, right before bedtime, because the fluoride will coat the teeth and exude its topical effect for a far longer period of time with the greatly diminished saliva flow during sleep.
Recommendations for fluoride regimens performed in the dental office have also been updated to take caries risk into consideration:
- Children with moderate caries risk should have 6-month fluoride applications
- High caries risk patients are recommended to have up to one fluoride application every 3 months
- Low caries risk patients may not benefit from in-office fluoride applications at all
If needed, your child will enjoy up to 6 months of benefits from one application of fluoride varnish – the solely used topical fluoride treatment at Pediatric and Adolescent Dentistry due to its proven benefits over fluoride gels and foam. Brushing with a pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste is also important. If your child is very young, only a smear of toothpaste should be used and then wiped away right after to prevent ingestion. At home fluoride rinses such as ACT mouth-rinse can provide further dental benefits as well.
Your child’s first permanent molars appear (erupt) around age 6. These teeth have deep grooves and fissures on the chewing surfaces that can harbor cavity-causing plaque, bacteria and acids that are difficult or impossible for toothbrush bristles to reach. Your child can protect these molars with sealants, a clear composite (plastic) material that is flowed into the grooves and fissures and then instantly hardened with a special light to act as a “shield” to harmful plaque, bacteria and acids. After they are placed, your child’s sealants are checked at each 6-month check-up and touched up if necessary.
Oral Hygiene Instruction
The best defense against tooth decay, cavities, bad breath and a host of other dental problems, is a good offense. Thankfully, the basics of the offensive game plan remain simple, proven, and inexpensive. Investing a little time in establishing and monitoring your child’s good brushing and flossing habits provides years of beneficial returns.
Good oral hygiene requires an understanding of plaque. Plaque is a sticky, colorless layer of bacteria. When you eat carbohydrates (foods made of sugar or starch) you feed this plaque, which in turn produces acids that attack tooth enamel, cause cavities, and develop a hard substance called calculus (tartar). Uninterrupted, the acid attacks can result in tooth decay and gum disease (also known as periodontal disease). If left untreated, gum disease can cause loss of teeth and bone.
By fighting plaque you can keep your teeth for a lifetime. Today’s older adults are keeping their natural teeth longer because of scientific developments and an emphasis on preventative dentistry.
At any age, you can begin the fight with plaque and keep your teeth and gums healthy. It’s really quite easy. Simply:
- Brush your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste to remove food particles and plaque from the tooth surfaces. While you’re at it, brush the top surface of your tongue to eliminate bad breath and bacteria buildup.
- Clean between your teeth daily with floss or an interdental cleaner. Decay-causing bacteria can linger between teeth where toothbrush bristles can’t reach. Flossing removes plaque and food particles from between the teeth and under the gum line.
- Eat a balanced diet and limit between-meal snacks. If a snack is needed, choose nutritious foods such as raw vegetables, plain yogurt, cheese or a piece of fruit.
- Schedule regular check-ups. Visit the doctor regularly (every 6 months) for professional cleanings and oral exams.
- Ask the doctor about dental sealants, a protective plastic coating that can be applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth where decay often starts.
- Wear mouth protection such as a mouth guard when you play contact sports or extreme sports.
- Prevent Tooth Decay – Tooth decay (cavity or caries) can develop on any surface of any tooth. Because cavities grow, they are much easier and less expensive to treat when they are small. A decaying tooth may not hurt, so you may have a cavity and not realize it. Our team checks for tooth decay at your child’s regular check-ups and will periodically use digital radiographs (x-rays) to check for decay between teeth. We treat tooth decay by cleaning out the cavity and placing a restoration (filling) in the tooth.