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Raising Cavity Free Kids
Comments by Dr. John Liu

I promised in one of my previous e-mail that I would address "How to raise your child cavity-free." Here it is:

1. Don't send your child to bed with a bottle at bedtime especially after age 4-6 months when teeth first begin to come in.

2. If your child must have a bottle at bedtime, dilute it with water or use a pacifier.

3. If your child uses a pacifier, don't dip it in any sweetener. (I learned this in Cincinnati where I did my training. Seemed that for a time, children of German descent in the community were getting pacifiers dipped in HONEY! (Bad stuff!)

4. Begin cleaning your child's mouth with a wet rag or gauze after feeding even before teeth erupt. This way, the teeth, when they erupt, will come into a clean mouth. And, your child will begin to learn early on that cleaning the mouth after feeding (brushing) is a natural thing.

5. If you live in a community where there is NO fluoride in the drinking water, ask your pediatrician or pediatric dentist about fluoride supplements as early as 6 months of age. Often, if your child needs a multi-vitamin anyway, one can be prescribed that includes fluoride as well. (Too much fluoride though, can cause the permanent teeth to be discolored. So, make sure you check whether or not your water has fluoride before giving fluoride supplements. And, watch the amount of toothpaste your toddlers use when brushing. They tend to swallow a lot of that toothpaste and most major toothpaste brands has lots of fluoride. Let them only use a pea-size amount of toothpaste especially if you live in an area that DOES have fluoride in the water.)

6. Take your child to see the pediatric dentist as soon as teeth begin to erupt. This is to begin to establish a relationship between your child and the pediatric dentist. Annual visits suffice until your child turns 3 years old. After that time, every 6 months is suggested for cleanings and fluoride treatment. X-rays once a year especially if there are tight contacts between your child's teeth. We would rather catch cavities when they are small and easy to fix. This is more comfortable for the child than a crown or root canal! (Trauma to your child's teeth is another reason to establish an early relationship with a pediatric dentist. I'll try to touch on dental trauma in another posting.)

7. When your child first begin to get the permanent first molars between age 6-7 years old, ask your pediatric dentist about sealants. Most children will have deep grooves in the chewing surfaces of these molars making it a real food and bacteria trap. By sealing these grooves, it prevents food and bacteria from getting stuck in the grooves for long periods of time. 80% of the cavities people tend to get are in these grooves. (However, sealants are not necessary for everyone. Some people have very flat teeth and hardly any grooves.)

8.  Your child should brush at least twice a day.  Night time brushing before bedtime is the most critical. Nothing to eat or drink (except water) after brushing. Otherwise, the benefit of the brushing is lost. As I mentioned in a previous posting, you decrease your saliva production while you are sleeping. That's why we wake up with dry mouth in the morning. Saliva though, can help prevent cavities. When it is not present, it cannot help.
Therefore, it is important that there is no food left in the mouth at nighttime for the bacteria to feed on.

9. You need to help a child under age 6 years old do the brushing. Studies show that children under 6 do not have the dexterity to do a good job. For the independent type child, let them do it first on their own. Then say that it's mommy or daddy's turn. I know that there are children who will fight you on brushing. No easy answer on how to do it.
I advise two things:  Patience and Persistence. Don't get angry with them when they resist you.  But, be persistent. If you throw-up your hands in disgust and defeat, your child will say, "Hey, if I give mom or dad a hard enough time, they'll let me have my way!" With time, it will get better. Parents have told me that it works if they try to make it into a game and or special family time. I'm sure all of you have stories about how you work with your child on brushing.

10.  Last but not least, your dental health is just as important as your child's. When was the last time you had your dental check up and cleaning?

My 10 points on how to raise your child cavity-free.  Hope it is helpful.

John R. Liu, DDS
Dental Consultant, Wide Smiles

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