How to Make Trips to the Family Dentist Bearable

There is a red circle around next Thursday; it is dentist visit day. You are dreading it almost as much as your kids are. You know there will be tears, cajoling, and frustration for all parties involved, especially since you know your youngest has two new cavities. You have a general idea of how strict you should be with your kids about brushing their teeth, but with how busy school and work are you have not been as diligent as you know you should be, and you have all but forgotten the most important aspects of family tooth care.

Did you know that over 40% of kids have dental cavities and tooth decay by the time they reach kindergarten? Cavities and tooth decay can be painful and uncomfortable for children of all ages; the best way to keep your kids from having to handle cavities and unnecessary interactions with dentists is preventative care.

Fluoride, a natural substance that is found in water, soil, and some foods, is one of your best weapons in the fight against cavities and tooth decay. Fluoride protects the teeth from decay by strengthening the enamel, and can be found in many toothpastes. Just check for a pediatric toothpaste with the American Dental Association’s (ADA) stamp on the box, which regulates fluoride levels and other standards. Depending on the age of your child, the amount of fluoride toothpaste will vary, from the size of a grain of rise (infants to two year olds) to the size of a pea (three years old and up). Most town water supplies are also fluoridated to a certain degree; however, if you used purified water, well water, or any other method other than community tap, you may want to check with your dentist about how to incorporate added fluoride protection.

Dentists also recommend that you instill good teeth cleaning habits in your children early. While it is important to supervise kids while brushing their teeth up to eight years old, remaining stern with your children about brushing, flossing, and rinsing will develop healthy habits that they will use when they are older. Additionally, parents should schedule their child’s first pediatric dentist’s visit around the time they are one years old and in regular increments following that, so that dentists can pinpoint potential problems with your child’s teeth early. This also helps to get a kid used to the dentist’s office so that they are not fearful of it in the future.

Diet is another very important factor in a child’s diet. If he or she is permitted to consume large amounts of sugary foods and juices, the teeth will be especially vulnerable to tooth decay and the eroding of enamel and the development of cavities, particularly in an environment where there is little to no fluoride. As it happens, kids do get a hold of these foods from time to time, but, if possible, the parent should make sure that the child at least rinses their mouth after eating to remove sugary buildups on the teeth and gums. Dentists advise to do this even after giving a child gummy vitamins or heavily sweetened liquid medicines.

Another common preventative care practice is called a sealant, in which dentists help fight against decay by applying a thin coat of resin to the molar area. This protective coating over where most food chewing occurs prevents bacteria and sugary deposits from building up in the crevices of the molars. Parents and children need to remember that the sealant option does not entirely replace healthy diets and oral habits.

Cavities are uncomfortable, filling in cavities is even worse, and teeth discoloration can be embarrassing; to prevent all of this, it is essential for a parent to be proactive and invest in one of the most important parts of their child’s body: their teeth. Infections in the teeth can lead to problems in the whole oral cavity, skull, throat, stomach, and even brain, as well as loss of adult teeth, which sets them up for a lifetime of complications.

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