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Baby Teeth

Just because baby teeth are tiny, doesn’t mean that they aren’t important. In fact, oral health is closely linked to overall health, which means that dental hygiene serves a far bigger purpose than just giving you a perfect smile. Because of its significance, our team of family physicians now include dental risk assessments as part of well child visits since we’re participating in the Smiles for Life program.

Let’s Talk About Cavities
Believe it or not, cavities is the most common childhood disease and has many negative consequences. What exactly causes cavities? It basically all comes down to the relationship between sugar and bacteria. You might be surprised (or maybe shocked is a better word) to learn that over 700 strains of bacteria have been detected in the human mouth. Most people, however, host 34-72 different types and not all of them are bad. However, some bacteria feeds on the sugar in our diet. The bacteria then releases an acid that breaks down our enamel, and so begins the start of a cavity. What might surprise you is that you can actually pass this bacteria to infants and children by kissing them and sharing your food/drink, so your dental hygiene is just as important as theirs.
Some of the consequences of cavities include:

  • Dental pain – This leads to poor school performance, loss of work, and the bill can get expensive.
  • Lost teeth – Sometimes decay is so bad that the affected teeth can’t be saved. Lost teeth can cause speech and language delays, and it can also take a serious toll on an individual’s self image.
  • Systemic conditions – It’s been said that the mouth is a window to the rest of the body because it can provide signs of other health disorders. Many people don’t realize how important oral health is to an individual’s overall well-being and they instead think that tooth decay is strictly confined to their mouth. Did you know that periodontal disease has been linked with many systemic conditions (for example, cancer and heart disease share common risk factors with oral disease)? A systemic condition is one that is not localized, but rather it impacts the entire body. In some cases, dental health can be so poor that the bacteria gets into the blood stream and causes the individual to become septic. To put it simply, teeth are important and need to be taken care of.

How can you reduce bacteria and cavities in your mouth and your children’s?
Keeping the bacteria in your mouth under control is really a fairly simple process and comes down to habit. It’s important to start these habits early, so the tips below should apply to both you and your child. Some basic things that you can do on a daily basis include:

  • Brushing two times a day
  • Flossing once a day
  • Reduce candy, pop, juice and sweets in your diet (less than once weekly for children)
  • For adults, Chew xylitol gum 2-3 times a day
  • For adults, use fluoridated toothpaste and mouthwash
  • For children, make sure the drinking water is fluoridated
  • Ask about topical fluoride treatments for your child

Here’s what you can expect at your child’s next well child visit when it comes to our infant oral health program:
We will do a quick oral exam and assess your child’s risk factors. The list below places your child at an increased risk for dental caries:

  • Primary caregiver has active dental caries and/or dental decay
  • Primary caregiver doesn’t have a dentist
  • Child gets a sippy cup of something other than water or infant formula/breast milk
  • Child snacks frequently
  • Child has special health care needs
  • Child is medicaid eligible
  • Child does not brush his/her teeth
  • Child’s water source is not fluoridated
  • We can also provide in-office fluoride treatments. Fluoride is a safe and effective way to reduce cavities, and topical treatments can be applied every 3-6 months.

Please keep in mind that although we can help with basic dental screenings, we are not dentists. It’s important that you have a dentist who can perform more thorough exams on a regular basis. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends your child’s first dental visit is by 1 year of age. If you don’t have a dentist, please ask us about local dental options.