Infant Oral Hygiene: Use a small washcloth or gauze to wipe your child's gums after each feeding. When teeth erupt, switch to a toothbrush with a small brush head and soft bristles. Only use a pea size amount of fluoridated toothpaste, because most young children will swallow a great portion of the toothpaste.
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay (BBTD): BBTD can occur when a child's teeth are exposed to sugar for an extended period of time. Such sugars are in milk, formula, fruit juice and soda. To prevent BBTD, brush your child's teeth after each feeding, and wean your child off the bottle by 12-18 months. If a bottle is still used, fill it only with water.
Oral Hygiene: As your child develops more independence, encourage them to brush their own teeth twice daily, but make sure you supervise and check for any "spots" they missed. Assist your child with flossing until age 7-8 years. Flossing should begin when two teeth contact each other, and cannot be properly cleaned by brushing alone.
Early Dental Visits: As recommended by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), regular dental care should begin by one year of age. During the first few visits, the dentist will examine your child's oral growth and development, check for cavities and discuss oral hygiene, diet, fluoride supplementation, home care and prevention.
Fluoride: Fluoride is an adjunct to caries prevention by strengthening tooth enamel, promoting remineralization of tooth structure and by its anti-microbial nature. To take advantage of such benefits, there is an optimal amount of fluoride your child should receive daily based upon their age and weight. Common sources of fluoride are drinking water, fluoride tablets or drops, fluoridated toothpaste and professional fluoride treatments. Your child's dentist will evaluate whether or not your child is receiving the optimal recommended daily dosage of fluoride. Most of the communities in Ventura County are not optimally fluoridated and supplementation may be necessary to achieve optimal benefits.
Diet: A well balanced diet is important for the development of your child's teeth. A diet high in carbohydrates, such as sugar and starch, may place your child at risk for cavities. All types of sugar, which include those in fruits, vegetables, milk, bread and even potato chips, can cause tooth decay. Serve such foods with meals, not as a snack. Equally important, is the frequency of how often your child eats. With every exposure to sugar, the level of acid in the mouth increases. Frequent and continuous acid exposure to teeth will start the cavity process. It is important to minimize snacking and avoid frequent sipping of sweetened drinks.
I’m frequently asked by patients, “Which toothpaste should I use?” That depends on what you are looking for. There are many types of toothpaste out there, and almost all of them claim to have a particular benefit. Some are ‘antigingivitis,’ some are ‘antiplaque,’ some whiten, and some are good for sensitive teeth. Given the wide variety of ingredients, it is important to have
some idea about what these ingredients are doing to serve your particular need. Here is a brief review of some of the active ingredients that are used in toothpaste to fight cavities, plaque, tartar, bad breath, sensitive teeth, and stained teeth.
Ingredients That Fight Cavities:
Fluoride was the first major active ingredient added to toothpaste and remains the most important substance we have to help fight cavities. If the crystalline structure of the tooth becomes weakened due to acid, fluoride ions promote the remineralization of the tooth structure. In order to reduce the risk of fluorosis, it is recommended to use a very small "smear" for children under 3, or “peasized” amount of toothpaste for children under 6.
Xylitol is also a cavity fighter. Xylitol is a sugar, but the bacteria are unable to ferment xylitol due to it’s structure; so as a result, minimal acid is produced by the bacteria, and additionally, the bacteria starve.
Ingredients for AntiPlaque and AntiGingivitis:
Triclosan is an antibacterial agent. The triclosan attacks the periphery of the bacterial cell and causes cell death, so as a result, we get lower plaque levels and a reduction in gingivitis. Colgate Total contains Triclosan/copolymer.
Stannous fluoride also kills bacteria, and as a result, reduces levels of plaque and gingivitis. Crest ProHealth and Colgate GelKam are two toothpastes that contain stannous fluoride.
Ingredients for AntiTartar
Pyrophosphate, Hexametaphosphate, and Zinc are ingredients that work to reduce tartar formation (but do not reduce the amount of tartar already present). Tartar forms when the calcium in your saliva causes plaque to solidify. Pyrophosphates, then, stabilize the calcium level in saliva and interfere with tartar crystal growth. Zinc inhibits crystal growth and controls tartar formation. Crest Tartar Protection is a toothpaste that contains pyrophosphate.
Ingredients to Fight Bad Breath
Chlorine Dioxide, Essential Oils, and Zinc Chloride are all ingredients used to reduce bad breath by inhibiting production of sulfur compounds. However, regardless of these ingredients, the surfactants present in all toothpaste as well as the mechanical motion of regular tooth brushing reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth and improve bad breath that way too!
Ingredients For Sensitive Teeth
Potassium Nitrate, Potassium Citrate, Potassium Chloride, Stannous Fluoride, and Strontium
Chloride work to desensitize teeth. Tooth sensitivity is the result of fluid flow through the naturally present microscopic pores around the tooth. The nerve in the middle of the tooth senses this fluid flow. Potassium nitrate, potassium citrate, and potassium chloride all work through preventing the transmission of the nerve signals by flooding the area with potassium ions.
Stannous fluoride, on the other hand, physically blocks the pores. Crest ProHealth, GelKam, Sensodyne, Colgate Sensitive, and Crest Sensitivity contain these ingredients.
Ingredients that Whiten Teeth
Abrasive ingredients such as calcium carbonate, silicas, magnesium carbonate, aluminum
oxide and argonite polish the enamel and increase its luster and white appearance. Whitening strips, whitening trays, and inoffice bleaching all use the oxidizing power of peroxide to whiten teeth. Low levels of hydrogen peroxide have been incorporated into some whitening toothpastes, but since the contact time is so small, little whitening ability can be attributed to the work of the peroxide. So the polishing accomplished by the abrasives in the toothpaste is the main ‘whitening’ mechanism in whitening toothpastes (ex. Crest Vivid White, Colgate Visible White, Aquafresh Extreme Clean).
For more information on Pediatric Dentistry please visit the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.