Many articles have discussed the establishment of preventive programs for the oral health of infants. These articles focus on the need for early intervention of preventive measure, especially dental health education for parents to minimize the incidence of oral diseases during infancy. It is recognized that the best opportunity to obtain the attention of parents is just prior or just after a baby’s birth, when motivation and interest are probably at their highest level. Surveys of expectant and nursing mothers indicate that many are misinformed or inadequate in their practice of proper dental health habits and that information disseminated at this time may encourage acceptance of new attitudes and practices. Because preventive dental health programming should be included along with the initial dental examination, most pediatric dentists recommend at the infant be seen beginning at one year of age. This appointment should be followed with subsequent visits at regular intervals for reinforcement.
Typically these visits include:
- Thorough examination of the infant’s mouth.
- Discussion with the parents about expected growth and development of the dentition, with reference to normal timing and pattern of primary tooth eruption.
- Discussion of fluoride supplementation.
- Discussion of diet and feeding habits to prevent nursing caries.
- Discussion of sucking habits and use of pacifiers.
- Discussion of possible oral trauma and precautions for its avoidance.
- Demonstration of recommended oral hygiene practices.
Toddlers, Children & Adolescents:
General preventive measures can be taken to avoid the development of cavities. First, limiting the consumption of carious foods such as pastries, candy, ice cream, sodas, juices and all other carbohydrates and sugar-containing foods to specific times of the day. When cavity-causing foods are consuming, the teeth should be cleaned immediately to minimize the possibility of acid production. When an individual does not have availability to a toothbrush, they can simply rinse their mouth out with water to help dilute and rinse carious debris. Next, implementing a regular homecare regiman, including brushing with a fluoridated toothpaste 2-3 times a day, flossing prior to bedtime and using cleaning aids such as toothpicks to dislodge impacted food debris from between the teeth. Lastly, regular visits to the dentist will help to diagnose the early development of dental decay, provides a professional application of fluoride and helps to reinforce homecare instructions.
Saliva is your body’s best mechanism for fighting the destructive forces of acids formed by plaque. As previously discussed, saliva acts as a buffer and re-mineralizing agent. Sugarless gum is one way to increase the flow of saliva in your mouth in between brushings. Using chewing gum sweetened with 100% Xylitol also increases the protection supplied by your saliva. Sucrose and Xylitol have very similar compositions and therefore are both regularly consumed by cavity causing bacteria within the mouth. However, Streptococcus mutants is unable to metabolize Xylitol into a product that can be used for energy. Therefore, it is tricked into eating a food that ultimately kills them and therefore decreases an individuals vulnerability to developing cavities. Making these preventive measures a regular part of your child’s daily routine will, ultimately, provide them with the best possible chance to avoid the development of dental decay.