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February 2019 Newsletter

Children’s Oral Health

How to Protect Your Child from Cavities

kid smiling

We’re recognizing the smiles of our young patients during Children’s Dental Health Month. Dr. Novak and Dr. Johannsen work hard to make sure patients have a healthy smile for many years to come, especially children. But chronic tooth decay continues to be an epidemic for children of all ages. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 5 children between 5 and 11 years of age have at least one untreated decayed tooth. Untreated tooth decay can result in other issues, including oral pain, difficulty concentrating, and even a lower performance in school.

Since February is Children’s Dental Health Month, we want to focus on not just how to protect your child’s mouth, but how they develop cavities in the first place. Fighting against cavity-causing bacteria is critical if you want to keep your child’s oral health protected. Once you know how this bacteria spreads, you can begin addressing it through improved habits at home.

Did You Know Cavities Are Contagious?

kid brushing teeth

Technically speaking, cavities are not caused by sugar or starch. Rather, it’s the bacteria known as Streptococcus mutans, or S. mutans, that consumes these substances and produces dangerous plaque acids. This acid builds up on the surface of teeth and breaks down enamel, which in turn creates cavities. If not promptly removed, this plaque will only continue to build up, leading to accelerated tooth decay.

Interestingly, children are not born with this bacteria in their mouth. So how do they get it? S. mutans is transferred from other mouths that already carry it, particularly from their loved ones and caretakers. Cavities are actually a communicable disease, much like the common cold or the flu.

The bad news is if you have cavities, you can easily transfer them to your child. The good news is tooth decay is still largely preventable when you take the right steps.

Have Questions? Contact Us

Start With Your Own Oral Care Habits

family brishing teeth

While it is not the only cause, parents are often the culprit when dentists discover tooth decay in their child’s mouth. This argument is further bolstered by a study conducted by the Australian Dental Journal. In it, researchers noted that 30 percent of 3-month-olds, 60 percent of 6-month-olds, and 80 percent of 2-year-olds were infected by the cavity-causing Streptococcus mutans bacteria. Researchers believed that children caught the germs from their mothers.

Parents who have a history of tooth decay are more likely to transfer it to their children. Since children do not have a built-up immunity to tooth decay, it’s important that you take the steps to address your current oral health just as much as you would your child’s. This includes:

  • Brushing twice a day with a fluoridated toothpaste
  • Flossing daily
  • Visiting our office once every six months for cleanings
  • Using heavy-duty mouthwash designed to kill cavity-causing bacteria
  • Chewing sugar-free gum in between meals
  • Drink fluoridated tap water

How to Protect Your Child’s Oral Health

Women brushing their teeth

Once you’ve addressed your own oral care, you can start thinking about protecting your child’s oral care as well. Consider the following steps and they’ll be far more likely to come back from our office with a clean bill of health!

  • Avoid sharing utensils – This includes silverware as well as toothbrushes. Always replace toothbrushes every three months. Use a dedicated set of utensils for your child.
  • Clean pacifiers with water only – Do not use your mouth to clean a pacifier. If the pacifier drops on the floor, use a spare clean pacifier or wash it with soapy warm water.
  • Teach the importance of oral care – Brushing alongside your child offers many benefits. It shows how much you care about their oral health and allows you to help them improve their technique. Choose a toothbrush and toothpaste that they’ll enjoy using. Just make sure that it contains fluoride as an active ingredient.

Dr. Novak, Dr. Johannsen, and the rest of the team members at the practice invite family members and caretakers to take care of both their own and their children’s oral health. By scheduling an appointment with our office, you can rest knowing that you’ll be receiving the best care possible for your smile. We hope to see you soon!

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