February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. This is a time to celebrate and support the role of parents when it comes to the oral health of their child(ren).
Although a “baby” tooth will eventually be replaced (starting around age 6 or 7, and by 12 years old), the fact that baby teeth aren’t permanent doesn’t diminish their importance.
Baby teeth serve as placeholders for permanent teeth. They save specific spots for the “adult teeth” that will emerge. This is why early dental care is so important, to help a child avoid a decayed baby tooth. When a decayed primary tooth must be extracted, it leaves an open gap. This means the other teeth can shift out of the positions they are meant to hold.
Shifting can result in crowding and misalignment of the teeth and jaws. It can also increase the risk of impacted permanent teeth that are blocked from erupting.
Those baby teeth are important for more reasons than the emergence of adult teeth. Primary (“baby”) teeth encourage jaw, muscle and facial development. This has much to do with oral and facial structures. This includes the child’s airway, which is in development while baby teeth are in position. The bone that supports teeth is also dependent on the presence of teeth to stimulate its proper growth.
According to information shared by Today’s RDH, “Over half of children ages 6 – 8 have had decay in at least one of their [baby] teeth with dental decay the most prominent disease of children ages 2 – 11. Children with tooth pain are reported to be four times more likely to have a lower grade point average.”
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) cites that the best measure of a child’s oral health is the same technique used on adults – probing. While the instrument may look sharp, the tip is rounded and gently guided along the base of the front and back sides of teeth. What the hygienist is monitoring are areas where this touch may cause bleeding. Bleeding is an indication of inflammation, which is caused by bacterial accumulation.
The AAPD states that probing should begin once permanent first molars are fully erupted and the child is cooperative. While damage from periodontal disease may be uncommon among children and adolescents, “nearly half will experience gingivitis (early stage gum disease) in their later preschool years, and nearly all will by puberty.”
The importance of your child’s oral health goes far beyond the joy you experience when seeing them smile. The time and cost savings for dental repairs are especially appealing as budgets become more strained in today’s world. Too, the habits they develop as youngsters tend to follow them into adulthood. You can actually improve their overall health as they grow into adults by helping your child keep a healthy smile.
Research shows the “bad” bacteria in the mouth associated with gum disease can affect gut health and strain the immune system. Later in life, these bacteria can penetrate the bloodstream and travel throughout the body, increasing the risks for serious health problems. These include heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, some cancers, preterm babies, dementia, and more.
Here are some ways you can help your child keep a healthy smile well into adulthood:
• Show them how to brush properly
Help your child to be able to brush while looking closely in the mirror (use a stool or a floor mirror). Show them how to reach both sides of teeth and get to the back teeth with their dominant hand. Show them how to swish and spit rather than swallow the water. (This takes practice so have them try this twice per brushing until they get the hang of it.)
• Make brushing routine a twice-a-day “must”
Although sleepovers and holiday schedules can disrupt the normal flow of brushing times, children who know the importance of keeping their teeth clean are easier to stick with the routine even during “off schedule” times. If you are committed to their brushing schedule, they will be more apt to be so themselves over time. Too, children tend to mimic what adults do, so help them develop a brushing routine with you. Morning and night-time “togetherness” at the sink can be a fun time.
• Help with food and beverage choices
Children can be picky eaters. Sometimes, parents are just glad they’ll eat anything and lighten up on urging healthier choices. Rather than drive you both bonkers, consider deterring them from some of the unhealthy choices using visuals of sorts. For examples, share that an animal cracker with peanut butter will make their teeth “happier” versus a gooey candy bar. Or, explain that the sugar-coated cereal they are pitching for has “too many sugar bugs” in it. This may dissuade them from always choosing the sugar-heavy picks (even as they go into adulthood).
• Discuss the scent of “rot” and how it relates to their oral health
When children fail to brush their teeth at night, they allow food particles in the mouth to create bacteria overload. This overload can be smelled through bad breath. The next time you encounter a smelly dumpster or have a trash can that is overdue for the curb, use the opportunity to talk about the smell that comes from not brushing their teeth.
• Talk up trips to the dentist
Going to the dentist should be seen as a normal part of every individual’s overall healthcare commitment. When discussing a dental appointment with a child, say things like “we get to go to the dentist today to make sure you smile is always happy.” Never say things like, “don’t worry, it won’t hurt” or “don’t be afraid,” since these actually plant the seeds that it may or might.
The CDC has some excellent information on children’s oral health as well as an activity book that can be downloaded at:
This activity book offers an interactive way for children to learn good oral health habits in a fun way (recommended for ages 3 – 8).
In our Shelby Twp dental office, we pride ourselves on offering complete care dentistry for all ages. Here, we are able to cover virtually every dental need in one convenient location for all ages, including:
• General dentistry
– periodic check-ups and cleanings
to prevent or catch problems at early stages (cavity repair, gum tissue inflammation, abnormal wear or fractures in teeth, etc.).
• Periodontal (Gum) Therapy
– treatment of gum disease
at most stages to restore the gums to a healthy state and prevent the need for tooth removal.
• Tooth replacement – crown and bridge, dental implants (all stages, including placement), dentures and partial dentures.
• Cosmetic dentistry
– porcelain veneers, crowns, tooth whitening, bonding, inlays/onlays, and gum reshaping (for correcting “gummy smiles” or crown lengthening). Check out our Smile Gallery
for just a few examples.
• Sedation dentistry
– oral and IV sedation
(twilight sleep) with additional comfort options available as appropriate to treatment and the individual.
• Realignment – “invisible” Invisalign aligners are more comfortable than traditional braces and make it easier to keep teeth clean throughout treatment. Evaluations are best when they occur by age 7.
• Wisdom Tooth Extraction
– advanced imaging technology
helps us to conservatively remove these sometimes stubborn teeth. Sleep dentistry is available.
• TMJ Therapy
– neuromuscular dentistry
is incorporated into restorative procedures to help patients avoid the risks for problems associated with jaw joint disorders. (We have patients come for this care from many distances, including out of state.)
• Snoring/Sleep Apnea Therapy
– advanced technology
helps us to accurately determine the contours of oral appliances that restore restful sleep, helping many patients avoid the need for CPAP therapy.
• Root Canals – modern techniques and technology provide our patients with a comfortable experience without the need for an endodontist when root canal therapy is needed.
If you are looking for a dental office
that’s aligned to care for your entire family’s smiles, from age 1 to age 101, call 586-739-2155
to schedule a no-charge consultation
or tap here
to begin. For those who have fear or anxiety associated with dental visits, check out our comfort options through a brief video: DrBarbatComfort
And please enjoy an introduction to our office through a brief tour at: DrBarbatOfficeTour