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FAQs: Preventive Dentistry
- What is preventive dentistry?
- Why is preventive dentistry important?
- When should preventive dentistry start?
- What role do parents play in prevention?
- What causes cavities (tooth decays) and how can they be prevented?
- Can Xylitol gums reduce the risk of cavities?
- What is fluoride treatment?
- How can I help my child embark on good dental health?
- Can dental injuries be prevented?
- What are the appropriate techniques for brushing and flossing my child's teeth?
Answers on Preventive Dentistry
What is preventive dentistry?
The adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is as true for your child as it is for you. Taking your child to see the dentist early and regularly is an important step to getting your child a lifetime of good health.
A typical program of preventive dentistry for children includes the following components:
- regular checkups
- oral habits
- parent involvement
- proper diet
- sports safety
During a typical visit to your pediatric dentist, your dentist will examine and professionally clean your child's teeth, and where necessary - apply sealants to protect your child from tooth decay (cavity), prescribe customized sports mouth guards to help your child avoid sports related injuries, give fluoride treatments, provide early diagnosis and care of dental problems, as well as catch potential orthodontic issues.
Why is preventive dentistry important?
Regular checkups and proper prevention today can reduce major dental problems and expensive treatments later.
Studies have shown that children with good oral health tend to eat better, learn better, do better at school, develop higher confidence, and in general are healthier over all.
Poor oral health, on the other hand, can cause decreased school performance, development of poorer social relationships, and poorer general health. (Back to top)
When should preventive dentistry start?
Preventive dentistry should begin with the eruption of the first tooth.
Take your children's oral health seriously. Pain from decayed teeth (cavity) or unhealthy gum can greatly distract a child's learning abilities as well as eating habits - not to mention quality of life.
A lifetime of good health should begin early with regular preventive care and development of good oral hygiene habits. (Back to top)
What role do parents play in prevention?
After evaluating your child's dental health, your pediatric dentist will design a personalized program of home care for your child. This program will include proper brushing and flossing instructions, diet counseling, and if necessary, fluoride recommendations. By following these directions, you as a parent can help get your child get a head start on a lifetime of good oral health. (Back to top)
What causes cavities (tooth decays) and how can they be prevented?
Dental decay (cavity) is a result of the infection of the tooth. Four things are necessary for cavities to form: 1) a tooth; 2) bacteria; 3) sugars or other carbohydrates; and 4) time.
So what causes cavity? Tooth decay is primarily caused by a combination of factors, including:
- Poor Oral Hygiene: Not brushing teeth regularly or effectively allows plaque to build up on teeth. Plaque contains bacteria that produce acids, which can erode tooth enamel and lead to cavities.
- Diet: Consuming sugary foods and drinks, especially between meals, provides fuel for bacteria in the mouth to produce acids that attack tooth enamel. Sticky candies and snacks that cling to teeth are particularly harmful.
- Lack of Fluoride: Fluoride helps strengthen tooth enamel and can reverse early stages of tooth decay. Children who don't get enough fluoride, whether through water, toothpaste, or dental treatments, may be more prone to cavities.
- Bacteria: Some individuals may have a higher concentration of cavity-causing bacteria in their mouths, making them more susceptible to cavities even with good oral hygiene practices.
- Inadequate Dental Care: Infrequent dental check-ups and lack of preventive measures like dental sealants, which protect teeth from decay, can contribute to cavities.
- Genetics: Genetics may play a role in determining susceptibility to cavities. Some people may inherit weaker enamel or other dental characteristics that increase their risk.
- Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions or treatments (e.g., chemotherapy) can affect dental health and increase the risk of cavities.
Your pediatric dentist will discuss with you how to prevent cavity by developing healthy habits that make teeth strong, that keep bacteria from organizing into harmful colonies, and that minimizes the time bacteria is in a form that is most destructive. (Back to top)
Can Xylitol gums reduce the risk of cavities?
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recognizes the benefits of Xylitol on the oral health of infants, children, adolescents, and persons with special health care needs.
Studies have shown that use of XYLITOL GUM by mothers (2-3 times per day) starting during pregnancy and until the child was 2 years old, can reduce cavities up to 60% in children by the time the children are 5 years old.
Studies using Xylitol as either a sugar substitute or a small dietary addition have been shown to slow down existing dental caries. The effects in many cases persisted years after the trials have been completed.
Xylitol can be found in gum and in natural food. Natural sources include fruits, berries, mushrooms, lettuce, hardwoods, and corn cobs. One cup of raspberries contains a little less than one gram of Xylitol.
To be therapeutically effective, Xylitol-containing gums should be chewed 3 times a day, each time for a minimum of 5 minutes. The gums should provide at least 6 grams of Xylitol a day. Read the label to make sure that Xylitol is listed as one of the first three ingredients. One of the easiest gum to find is ICE BREAKERS CUBES from Hershey. (Back to top)
What is fluoride treatment?
Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally in many foods and water. Every day, fluoride minerals are replenished from the food we eat and water we drink. Every day, however, minerals are constantly lost when acids - formed from plaque bacteria and sugars in the mouth - attack the enamel.
Fluoride treatment replenishes the proper balance of fluoride minerals in your child's teeth. When appropriate, professional fluoride treatments will renew the fluoride content in the enamel of your child's teeth, strengthening your child's teeth to prevent cavities.
If your have more questions about whether your child should get fluoride treatment, talk to your pediatric dentist. (Back to top)
How can I help my child embark on good dental health?
The following steps will help your child embark on a lifetime of good dental health:
- Reduce frequent snacking
- Brush effectively twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste
- Floss daily
- Have sealants applied when appropriate
- Assure proper fluoride through drinking water, fluoride products or fluoride supplements
- Control unhealthy thumb, finger and pacifier habits
- Seek regular dental check-ups
Your pediatric dentist will provide you with other helpful information on preventive care during your regular checkup. (Back to top)
Can dental injuries be prevented?
A few precautions during your normal daily routine will go a long way toward reducing the risk of oral trauma to your kid.
If your kid participates in sports, your child should wear sports mouth guards — preferably ones custom-made to fit by a professional such as your pediatric dentist.
If your child is a toddler, use a car seat. For older kids, require them (and everyone else for that matter!) to use seat belts.
You should also childproof your home to reduce the risks of falls, electrical injuries, and choking (i.e. from small objects).
Finally, take your kid to visit your pediatric dentist regularly. Your pediatric dentist will provide a more detailed and tailored advice based on the unique situations of your child. (Back to top)
What are the appropriate techniques for brushing and flossing my child's teeth?
The best source of information on brushing and flossing is your pediatric dentist during your family's regular visits. For general information purposes, you may find the following animations on brushing helpful.
THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THESE PAGES DO NOT CONSTITUTE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health.