By following the information in this guide, you and your family can have healthy teeth and gums to last a lifetime. As a parent, you can work with your children to help them understand why good oral care is important — and show them how to do it right!
Four Steps to a Bright Smile
Brush at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.
Floss every day.
Limit the number of times you eat snacks each day.
Visit your dentist regularly and follow his/her advice.
It's easy to guide your family toward good oral health. All it takes is the right information and a little practice to keep them moving in the right direction!
In this section, learn about:
Fluoride your family's best defense
Fluoride is the best cavity fighter you can find as you guide your family to a lifetime of bright smiles! It keeps the whole family's teeth strong -- no matter what their ages.
How fluoride works
Every day, the enamel on teeth is attacked by acids produced in dental plaque. These acids can erode through the enamel and result in decay.
That's where fluoride comes in. As it reaches your teeth, fluoride is absorbed into the enamel. It helps to repair the enamel and prevent tooth decay. It can even help stop the decay process.
How to get fluoride
You can get the benefits of fluoride from a variety of sources. It works on the outside of your teeth. At home, you and your family should brush with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day. Fluoride rinses can also provide additional protection. Your dentist can also apply fluoride to your teeth in the surgery.
Snacking and tooth decay
If fluoride is our greatest protection against tooth decay, then frequent snacking can be our teeth's biggest enemy. Every day, you and your family face snacking challenges. Here's what you need to know:
It's how often you snack that matters
The truth is that what your family eats isn't as important as when and how often they snack! It all has to do with the "plaque acid attack," and this is how it works:
The plaque acid attack
Everyone has plaque bacteria in their mouths. But when these plaque bacteria meet up with the sugars and starches that are found in snacks such as sweets, biscuits, soft drinks, or even potato chrips, the plaque reacts to create acid, and a "plaque acid attack" occurs.
The fact is, most snacks that you eat contain either sugars or starches that give plaque this opportunity to make acid. And each "attack" can last for up to 20 minutes after you have finished your snack. During this period, the plaque acid is attacking tooth enamel, making it weak. That's when cavities can start!
Fighting back against plaque
The good news is, you can take a stand against plaque! By brushing twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste and by reducing the number of times you snack each day, you and your family can help prevent tooth decay.
When it comes to snacking, it's best to choose something nutritious and to snack in moderation. It's also better to eat the whole snack at one time! Here's why: Eating five pieces of a snack at one time exposes your teeth to possible tooth decay — for approximately 20 minutes. Nibbling on those same five pieces at five different times exposes your teeth to possible tooth decay for approximately 100 minutes. What a difference!
You need to watch baby's sweets, too!
Infants are just as susceptible to decay as older children and adults. In fact, Early Childhood Cavities can be a very serious condition. See The Preventing Early Childhood Cavities section below for more information.
The dental checkup
The dentist is your family's partner on the Bright Smiles pathway. Be sure to schedule regular dental appointments for the whole family. A child's first visit should take place before his or her third birthday.
Dental checkups early in a child's life allow children to have a positive dental health experience.
TIP: Take your young toddler with you to your own appointment first. That way, the dental office becomes a familiar place.
Your dental checkup: what to expect
Your dentist may treat your child's teeth with extra fluoride in the form of a gel or varnish to make teeth stronger.
These are thin, protective plastic coatings applied by the dentist to the permanent back teeth (molars). They fill in the grooves on the chewing surfaces of the teeth where foods and bacteria can get stuck and cause cavities. Once applied, sealants can last for several years.
X-rays: These “pictures” are radiographs that show the dentist what's going on inside the teeth and under the gum. During the x-ray, your child will wear a lead apron to prevent unnecessary exposure.
Preventing early childhood cavities
(Baby Bottle Tooth Decay)
Early Childhood Cavities can be prevented. The following steps can help guard your baby against this painful condition -- and ask your dentist for more information.
It's best not to put a bottle in bed with baby. But if you must put a bottle in bed with baby, put only plain water in it. Any liquid except water, even milk and juice, can cause cavities.
You can use a bottle to feed your baby at regular feeding times, but allowing the bottle to be used as a pacifier can be a major cause of cavities.
- Hold your baby while feeding him. If baby falls asleep, remove the bottle and put him in bed.
- Avoid putting baby to sleep with a bottle.
- Avoid letting your toddler walk around with a bottle.