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Don't let your smile become extinct Sure-fire tricks to ensure children have healthy teeth

by Dr. (Ret. Lt. Col.) Thomas P. Sutton
6th Dental Squadron

Most parents want only the best dental health for their children, and rightly so. There are too many old-timers with dentures, root canals and fillings, all of which could have been easily prevented. Right now is the time to start the kids out with the right habits to prevent nasty dental problems. Here's what you can do.

Brush their teeth after eating
Not just a five-second wipe with the toothbrush, but a determined effort to meticulously clean the bacteria from all surfaces of the teeth with brush and floss. For youngsters who need your help, massage the teeth and gums with a clean gauze pad or small soft brush. Most dentists recommend starting this plan when the first tooth shows itself. This action removes all the sticky, acidic plaque (bacteria) that starts all the problems.

Cut down on bottle-feeding
When a baby drinks cow milk, breast milk, fruit juice or a sweet drink all day, the constant wash of sugar will destroy the enamel. So, restrict these drinks to mealtimes only. Afterward, clean the teeth and perhaps give the baby a rubber pacifier the rest of the day.

Absolutely don't let the child sleep with a bottle, because that's needless exposure all night to the harmful sugary liquids that invite acidic plaque. Many kids can throw the bottle away and be taught to use a cup at about one year of age.

Visit the dentist regularly
Start on the first birthday or thereabouts. The dentist can catch nasty problems early. Also, this gets the kids used to the dental office and gives them a positive attitude about the visit. Your kids can be good patients and actually enjoy the trip. Maybe tell the children they have pretty teeth and you want to show them off to the dentist.

Protect their teeth
If you have a football, baseball or basketball player, consider getting him or her a mouth guard. Mouth guards keep teeth from damage, even after an elbow to the face or a whack in the jaw with a tennis racket. Think prevention

For older kids, the dentist may recommend sealants to fill deep natural grooves in the teeth. He may suggest fluoride tablets in areas where there is no natural or added fluoride in the water. As you know, fluoride is a mineral needed for the development of decay-resistant teeth. In any case, an ounce of prevention can prevent a pound of dental problems, so it pays to keep your young ones' teeth healthy.




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