Pediatric dental care

Pediatric dental care

by Jeana Coleman
Stripes Europe

Tooth decay is the most common chronic, infectious disease affecting U.S. children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 20 percent of children ages 5-11 have untreated cavities, or caries; untreated decay can lead to pain and infection that may hinder a child’s ability to eat, speak, play and learn.

Tooth decay can be prevented if families develop daily brushing regimens and schedule routine dental examinations and cleanings. Although all dentists can provide medical exams, treatment and advice, consider visiting a pediatric dentist who specializes in children’s dental health and provides an office environ¬ment and equipment that are designed specifically for kids.

Cleaning Routine by Age

0-2: Before your baby’s first tooth erupts, use a soft cloth and gently wipe gums after feedings, during bath time and before bedtime. Gently brush first teeth with an infant finger brush and non-fluoride paste. Avoid nighttime bottles with anything but water, or dipping pacifiers into anything sweet. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Dental Association (ADA) recommend that you take your child to a dentist by his or her first birthday.

2-5: Help your child brush his/her teeth twice daily (morning and night) with an age-appro¬priate brush and small amount of fluoride paste. Begin flossing when teeth grow to touch. Limit juices and carbonated drinks, and schedule routine dental exams and cleanings every six months. Discuss your routine and any additional treatments like sealants or fluoride supplements. Sucking on fingers, thumbs or pacifiers can affect teeth and promote decay. If a child does not stop on his own, ask your dentist for helpful tips to discourage the habit by age 3.

5 and up: A child’s hand muscles are still developing, so assist with brushing until age 7 or 8. Floss each day, and seek resources for tips in how to floss. Use fluoride toothpaste. Children playing sports should wear appropriate mouth guards. Continue to avoid juices and carbonated drinks, and maintain dental exams and cleanings every six months. Talk with your dentist about your current cleaning routine and areas of improvement.

Promoting Healthy Habits

Brushing and flossing don’t have to be such a chore. Several organizations provide educational resources and fun toolkits that encourage healthy dental habits: AAP’s Brush, Book, Bed; ADA’s Mouth Monsters; 2min2x; Brushing Fun Coloring Book.

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