By Dr. Ruchi Kaushik
The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio
Oral health is the most common chronic disease of childhood. Additionally, gum disease has been linked to future heart and lung disease, diabetes, premature and low-birth weight babies, and a number of other conditions. The 2000 Surgeon General’s report, Oral Health in America, states that, if left untreated, poor oral health is a “silent X-factor promoting the onset of life-threatening diseases which are responsible for the deaths of millions of Americans each year.”
As a result, teaching your child about good oral hygiene from the start can prevent tooth decay and gum disease and their complications.
Fluoride (a “vitamin for your teeth”) is a chemical added to most city drinking water supplies (not present in bottled water) and to toothpaste. It strengthens tooth enamel and helps repair early damage to teeth. Make sure to use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste for children less than 2 years of age. Check with your pediatrician about fluoride content in your water supply, the need for fluoride drops, and fluoride varnish.
Brush, brush, brush! (And floss, too.) You may begin cleaning your child’s teeth as soon as the first tooth appears (wipe the gums before the teeth come in). For infants under 12 months of age, use a soft washcloth. Between 12 and 24 months, brush your child’s teeth twice daily using water, preferably after breakfast and before bed. Over 24 months, use an appropriate-sized toothbrush and fluoridated toothpaste (pea-sized amount). You may begin flossing your child’s teeth as soon as two teeth are touching each other.
Nutritious diet Be sure to offer your child a well-balanced diet with a variety of foods. Limit 100 percent juice to once a day, and do not offer other sugary drinks. Pediatric dentists emphasize that they prefer your child to chew her fruit, not drink it.
Bottles and sippy cups Never put your child to bed with a bottle, sippy cup, or food as this exposes the teeth to sugar all night. Teaching your child to drink from a cup earlier is important, because cups are less likely to cause the liquid to collect around the teeth. If your child likes to take a bottle or sippy cup to bed for security, fill it with water.
Regular dental check-ups The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that your pediatrician assess your baby’s oral health at regular check-ups and that your family identify a dentist by 12 months of age.
Did you know? The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio Dental Clinic is committed to providing dental services to children age 16 and younger, throughout South Texas. In some cases, young adults under the care of a Children’s Hospital physician may be seen upon the request of the attending physician. For an appointment, please call 210.704.4708.