Protecting Kids' Teeth

April 13, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
The American Dental Association says only three out of five kids have seen a dentist by the time they reach kindergarten. But kids should see a dentist much earlier than that.As a day care provider, Mary Williams knows a lot about kids. But there's one thing she didn't know: kids should see a dentist by their first birthday.

"Being a daycare provider and all the training to keep my license up, I still had no idea," Williams says.

Many parents don't. But a new report shows tooth decay in two year-olds to five year-olds is on the rise. Twenty-eight percent of toddlers have it.

"It is a problem. That's a high prevalence for little people to have cavities," says Robert Berkowitz, D.D.S., a dentist from the University of Rochester in Rochester, N.Y.

Dr. Berkowitz says grazing is part of the problem. Damaging acids from sugary foods harm teeth for at least 20 minutes after eating them.

"Putting the child in the crib with a nursing bottle that has things like apple juice or Hawaiian punch where they can suckle on the bottle all night is a real problem," Dr. Berkowitz says.

He says start weaning kids off bottles and sippy cups by age one.

"And if a child really needs one that the only thing that goes in there is water," Dr. Berkowitz says.

Another common bacteria source comes from you. Don't use your mouth to clean bottle tops or pacifiers. Another tip -- as soon as the first tooth comes in?

"Clean your child's teeth twice a day with an ADA-approved fluoride toothpaste, but only use enough the size of a pea," Dr. Berkowitz says.

And kids should not brush their own teeth until about age six.

"If you keep a tooth clean, clean teeth don't decay," Dr. Berkowitz says.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the use of fluoride, either in toothpaste or drinking water, to prevent tooth decay for every age group except infants. Fluoride exposure during infancy can cause dental fluorosis, or spotting on the teeth.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Eastman Dental Center
University of Rochester Medical Center
(585) 273-2864
http://www.urmc.rochester.edu/dentistry


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