Keeping Teeth HealthyA Visit to the Dentist

Keeping your teeth healthy isn't hard.  You don't need a lot of expensive tools, and you don't need to spend a lot of time in a classroom.  What you do need to do is practice "preventive dentistry."

So what is preventive dentistry?

It's simple.  Preventive dentistry includes:
  1. Proper brushing and flossing is actually your first line of defense against tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss.
  2. visiting your dentist regularly for checkups
  3. good oral habits
  4. orthodontics if you need them
  5. parent involvement
  6. proper diet
  7. sealants
  8. fluoride in the water really does help!
  9. practicing sports safety - get a mouthguard and use it!

Rule Number 1:  Brush your teeth after you eat!

Avoid the drill.  Fear cavities no more.  You're about to learn what causes cavities so you can avoid them from now on:

Our mouths, teeth and toothbrushes are full of bacteria which settle on our teeth and create plaque.  Plaque is a mixture of proteins, saliva, and food particles left on your teeth after you eat.  Within minutes after a meal, bacteria begin feasting on those left-over bits of food in your mouth.  The by-product of that feast is an acid, and it's that acid that eats into the enamel on your teeth, causing cavities.

Very tiny cavities can heal on their own.  But if the food particles that the bacteria eats is left on your teeth for very long, more acid will be produced and those tiny cavities turn into larger cavities which will have to be drilled into and filled up by a dentist.  (Big ouch.)

So.  Remember Rule Number 1 and clean off your teeth as soon as you can after you eat.  BRUSH YOUR TEETH AFTER YOU EAT!

Rule Number 2:  Floss your teeth!

"But I just brushed my teeth," you say proudly.  "Why should I have to floss too?"  Flossing reaches the nearly 35 percent of your mouth that your toothbrush can't reach.  In these areas, bacteria live happily pouring out cavity-causing acid.  Remember that mixture of proteins, saliva, and food particles?  You need to get as much off as you can, and dental floss is the best way to do that outside of a dentist's chair.  So -- FLOSS YOUR TEETH!

Brushing and flossing is the cornerstone of preventive dentistry.
Why is it so important?

Preventive dentistry means a healthy smile.  Healthy mouths chew more easily and gain more nutrients from food.  Kids with healthy mouths learn to speak more quickly and clearly.  They have a better chance of good general health, because disease in the mouth can endanger the rest of the body.  A healthy mouth is more attractive!  You feel confident in your looks when your mouth and teeth are in good shape.  Most importantly, preventive dentistry means less extensive, and less expensive, dental treatment your whole life.

When should preventive dentistry start?
Preventive dentistry begins with the first tooth.  Visit your pediatric dentist when the first tooth comes in!  Parents will learn how to protect an infant's dental health.  The earlier the dental visit, the better the chance of preventing dental disease and helping a child belong to the cavity-free generation.

What role do parents play in prevention?
After evaluating your dental health, your pediatric dentist will design a personalized program of home care to keep those teeth healthy.  This program will include brushing and flossing instructions, diet counseling, and if necessary, fluoride recommendations.  By following these directions, you'll learn a lifetime of healthy habits.

How do pediatric dentists help prevent dental problems?
Tooth cleaning and polishing and fluoride treatments are all part of a prevention program.  But there's much more.  For example, your pediatric dentist can apply sealants to protect from tooth decay, help you select a mouth guard to prevent sports injuries to the face and teeth, and provide early diagnosis and care of orthodontic problems.  Your pediatric dentist is uniquely trained to develop a combination of office and home preventive care to insure a happy smile!
    Some Good Tips
  • Stop sucking habits as soon as possible. They lead to potential tooth misalignment.
  • Choose a soft, kid-size brush. Replace the brush every three months.
  • Use no more than a pea-size amount of toothpaste on a child's toothbrush. This offers adequate fluoride and protection from fluorosis, a damaging oral condition caused by overingestion of fluoride.
  • Help toddlers brush after breakfast and before bed. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children under 8 brush with parents' help.
  • Avoid starchy and sugary snacks. They stick to teeth and increase the risk of decay.
  • If a kid is unable to brush, rinse the mouth with water to wash away food particles and sugar.
  • Call your community's water department to find out whether your water is fluoridated, and talk to your dentist about the best fluoride treatment.

Check the American Dental Hygenists' Association for some great information on good oral health.  Also check out the American Dental Association (312-440-2617; or the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (312-337-2169; for lots of information and for help finding an accredited pediatric dentist in your area.  Thanks to these organizations for the information on dental health.

BlackDog Goes to the Dentist

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