A Guide to Preventive Dentistry for Children: Promoting Healthy Teeth and Smiles

Children should attend a dentist

From what age, you may ask? My suggestion from 2.5-3 years, but that is just my personal opinion.

Preventive dentistry in children ensures a healthy foundation for their dental development. This overview provides some advice on maintaining good oral health, focusing on diet, acid prevention, fissure sealants, topical fluoride, flossing, and regular professional assessments.

  1. Good Diet for Healthy Teeth

A balanced diet rich in essential nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, and vitamins is crucial for developing strong teeth and gums. Encourage children to consume fruits, vegetables, dairy products, lean proteins, and whole grains. Limit sugary snacks and beverages to prevent tooth decay.

  1. Decreasing Acid Attack

Acidic foods and drinks can erode tooth enamel, leading to cavities. Advise children to limit acidic foods like citrus fruits, carbonated drinks, and sugary treats. Encourage rinsing the mouth with water after consuming acidic items to neutralise the acid and minimise its effects.

Fissure Sealants: Protecting Permanent Teeth

Fissure sealants are a preventive dental treatment designed to protect the chewing surfaces of molars and premolars (the back teeth) from cavities and decay.

They have been around for many years.

I had them, and so did my children (all 6 of them).

The molar surfaces have natural grooves and fissures that can be difficult to clean effectively with regular brushing.

Sealants act as a barrier, preventing bacteria and food particles from accumulating in these grooves and causing cavities.

What is a Fissure Sealant?

A fissure sealant is a thin, plastic-like coating applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth, especially molars and premolars. It creates a protective layer, sealing off the pits and fissures, making the tooth surface smoother and easier to clean. The sealant acts as a shield, preventing food and bacteria from getting trapped in the crevices and causing decay.

Procedure and What to Expect

Applying fissure sealants is a quick and painless procedure often performed by a dentist or dental hygienist. Here’s what to expect during the process:

  1. Cleaning and Preparation: The teeth to be sealed are cleaned and dried thoroughly.
  2. Isolation: The tooth or teeth are isolated using cotton rolls or a rubber dam to keep them dry during the procedure.
  3. Etching: A mild acidic solution (etchant) is applied to the tooth’s chewing surface for a short time. This etching creates a rough surface on the enamel, which helps the sealant adhere effectively.
  4. Rinsing and Drying: After the etching, the tooth is rinsed and dried to remove any residual etching solution.
  5. Application of Sealant: The sealant material is applied to the tooth’s surface, covering the pits and fissures. It is then hardened using a special light, bonding to the tooth.
  6. Evaluation: The dentist or hygienist checks the sealant’s placement and ensures it has effectively covered the intended areas.

The procedure is painless, and there is no need for anaesthesia. It typically takes only a few minutes per tooth.

Longevity of Fissure Sealants

Fissure sealants can last for several years with proper care and maintenance. The longevity of sealants varies depending on factors such as the type of sealant used, oral hygiene practices, and the individual’s diet and chewing habits.

Regular dental check-ups are crucial to monitor the condition of the sealants and determine if any reapplication or repairs are needed. Sealants can be reapplied if they wear off or chip over time.

Maintaining good oral hygiene, avoiding biting hard objects, and attending regular dental appointments to ensure the longevity and effectiveness of fissure sealants in preventing tooth decay are essential.

Topical Fluoride: Strengthening Tooth Enamel

Topical fluoride, often in toothpaste or mouthwash, strengthens tooth enamel and helps prevent decay. Fluoride promotes remineralisation, making teeth more resistant to acid attacks. Ensure children use fluoride toothpaste with the appropriate fluoride concentration for their age.

We also apply materials such as Duraphat and Proflourid at Dental Visits – this is again to strengthen the teeth.

Applying Duraphat or Fluoride to a Child’s Teeth: A Vital Preventive Measure

Fluoride is a crucial element in preventive dentistry, particularly for children, as it helps strengthen tooth enamel, making it more resistant to acid attacks and tooth decay. Duraphat is a brand of fluoride varnish commonly used in dental practice to provide a high concentration of fluoride directly to the teeth. Applying Duraphat or fluoride to a child’s teeth during a dental visit is a simple and preventative procedure.

Why is it Important?

Fluoride offers several benefits for dental health:

  1. Strengthening Tooth Enamel: Fluoride helps remineralise weakened tooth enamel, making it stronger and more decay-resistant.
  2. Preventing Tooth Decay: By strengthening the enamel, fluoride can prevent or reduce the occurrence of cavities and tooth decay.
  3. Inhibiting Bacterial Growth: Fluoride inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria in the mouth, further contributing to cavity prevention.
  4. Promoting Overall Oral Health: Regular fluoride treatments contribute to maintaining good oral health, especially in children whose permanent teeth are still developing.

Application of Duraphat or Fluoride

  1. Preparation: The dentist will thoroughly clean and dry the teeth to ensure the fluoride varnish adheres appropriately.
  2. Isolation: The dentist may isolate the teeth using cotton rolls or a dental dam to keep the area dry during application.
  3. Application: A small amount of Duraphat or fluoride varnish is applied to the surface of the teeth using a brush or applicator. The varnish is typically a sticky substance that adheres to the teeth, allowing the fluoride to release and benefit the teeth gradually.
  4. Setting: The varnish sets quickly, forming a protective layer over the teeth. Nothing to eat or drink for a short period to allow the varnish to set fully.
  5. Post-Application Care: You can resume normal eating and drinking after the procedure. Avoiding sticky or hard foods for a few hours maximises the varnish’s benefit.

Importance of Regular Fluoride Applications

Regular fluoride applications, whether through varnish or other forms like toothpaste, are essential for children because:

  • Preventive Effectiveness: Fluoride, when consistently applied, can significantly reduce the risk of tooth decay, especially in children who may be more susceptible to cavities.
  • Forming Good Habits: Starting fluoride applications in childhood establishes good oral hygiene habits that can last a lifetime, promoting a lifetime of healthy teeth. Kids should Love the dentist.
  • Supplementing Fluoride Intake: In some areas, the natural water supply may not have enough fluoride. In such cases, fluoride applications at the dentist can increase fluoride intake.

Regular dental check-ups and professional fluoride applications are essential to preventive dentistry, ensuring optimal oral health for children as they grow. It creates good habits for them and future generations.

Flossing: Keeping Spaces Between Teeth Clean

Flossing is vital for cleaning the spaces between teeth where a toothbrush can’t reach. We Teach children how to floss gently to remove plaque and food particles, preventing gum disease and cavities. Supervision is essential in young children until they can floss effectively and independently.

Regular Visits to a Dental Health Educator and Dental Hygienist

Regular visits to dental health educators and dental hygienists provide valuable advice, preventive care, and professional cleanings. They can teach children proper oral hygiene techniques and identify potential issues early, ensuring optimal oral health as children grow.

It’s so important the child likes the visit, the team and the dentist.

Assessment of Orthodontics for Developing Permanent Teeth

As permanent teeth begin to develop, it’s important to check for spacing, crowding, missing teeth, and many other things.

We can evaluate the alignment and spacing of teeth, recommending early interventions if necessary. Early orthodontic treatment can address emerging issues and guide proper dental development.

Preventive dentistry for children is essential for setting the foundation for a lifetime of good oral health. By promoting a healthy diet, minimising acid exposure, using fissure sealants and topical fluoride, practising proper flossing, and seeking regular guidance from dental professionals, parents can ensure their children develop strong, healthy teeth and maintain beautiful smiles.

Prevention is better than cure, as my mum once told me.

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