Health

Mothers know best

The age-one dental visit

by Dr Sharon Robinson

Sunday, May 13, 2018

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WHEN parents or caregivers mistakenly say, “They are only baby teeth, they are going to fall out anyway”, they have the wrong impression.

The age-one dental visit sets the tone for lifelong dental health. The fact is, primary teeth serve as the guides for the permanent teeth and are critically important to the health and function of their adult successors. What's more, primary teeth are the child's teeth for most of childhood — children don't usually begin losing them until about age six, and the last primary teeth aren't lost until around age 12. It's just as important to care for them as for the permanent teeth that come later.

A child's oral health is closely related to the family's overall dental health and hygiene practices. This first dental visit can educate parents or caregivers on the importance of their own oral hygiene as well.

Children are not born with high levels of cavity-causing bacteria in their mouths. They acquire the bacteria from their caregiver, usually their mother, through close contact. These bacteria are transmitted through kissing, sharing eating utensils like a spoon or a glass, sharing food, or cleaning off a pacifier by mouth.

The period when a child is most susceptible to acquiring the decay-causing bacteria is quite short, beginning as early as six months of age and continuing through approximately 31 months.

There is mounting evidence that a child's oral health is closely tied to his or her mother. This is why it is important that caregivers of young children promote their own oral health through regular dental visits and proper hygiene habits. The age one visit is a good reminder — and a learning opportunity — for proper hygiene and care.

An ounce of prevention

What really is prevention anyway?

Prevention in the truest sense of the word means stopping an anticipated problem before it even starts. The importance of primary teeth and preparing for a lifetime of good oral health are the main reasons parents should bring their children to see a dentist or paediatric dentist, preferably before their first birthday. It's more than just a casual visit: Even a one-year-old needs a comprehensive examination and even some preventive applications.

The age-one visit may also reveal underlying conditions that may indicate future problems and determine how often follow-up visits might be needed. Children with low risk for oral or dental disease might only be seen annually or semi-annually until the primary (baby) teeth are all fully erupted in the mouth and in occlusion (biting function). Children assessed at high risk might be seen as often as every two to three months.

Breaking the

These conditions form a cycle of events, even in babies, that slowly unravel oral health: Decay causing bacteria interact with the carbohydrates (sugars) to produce acid; the acid in continual contact with the teeth slowly demineralises (dissolves) the tooth enamel; as demineralisation continues, cavities form.

Age-one visits provide insight into these three opportunities for both the child and parents. For example, age-one visits can help parents or caregivers learn the proper techniques for cleaning their children's teeth.

Until a child is about seven years old, an adult needs to brush the child's teeth for them. Parents can allow the child to brush his or her own teeth, but at least once a day, preferably at bedtime, an adult should carefully and thoroughly brush the child's teeth.

Because all three of these conditions must be present for a cavity to form, there are at least three opportunities for intervention: (1) eliminate or reduce the bacteria through oral hygiene; (2) reduce the presence and frequency of carbohydrates by dietary changes; and/or (3) make the tooth more resistant through the use of fluoride.

Diagnosis, prevention, education, and treatment

The age-one visit can cover a lot of ground for your baby's first visit to the dentist. Most importantly, the immediate diagnosis and treatment of emerging dental problems, as well as the long-term attention to good oral hygiene, can help build a foundation of good dental health for your child — and your entire family — that will last a lifetime.

Dr Sharon Robinson DDS has offices at the Dental Place Cosmetix Spa, located at s hop #5, Winchester Business Centre, 15 Hope Road, Kingston 10. Dr Robinson is an adjunct lecturer at the University of Technology, Jamaica, School of Oral Health Sciences. She may be contacted at 630-4710. Like their Facebook page, Dental Place Cosmetix Spa for an opportunity to take advantage of weekly specials.

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