It is not something we talk about often, and certainly not around the dinner table with family and friends. Tooth decay is a serious problem for American children, affecting one in four children ages two to five and half of children 12 to 15 years old. Also known as cavities, tooth decay, if untreated, can greatly impact how our children grow, develop and experience the world around them. From unnecessary pain to school absences, difficulty concentrating and poor appearance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns parents that these problems can affect a child's quality of life and ability to succeed. This week the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a new recommendation for parents to start brushing their children’s teeth with a toothpaste containing fluoride as soon as the first teeth appear.
“Based on the AAP’s new recommendation regarding teeth brushing, I would recommend that parents put a small smear of fluoride containing toothpaste (not a bead like adults use) on a brush and clean their child’s teeth at least once a day, preferably after the last feeding,” explains Utica Park Clinic pediatrician Dr. Kathleen Koljack. For babies who have already had a few teeth break through, Dr. Koljack advised parents not to allow them to take a bottle to bed. “Ideally, the mouth should be rinsed after a milk feeding before going to sleep – a few swallows of water would accomplish this.”
After the age of three, the AAP suggests using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste when brushing your child’s teeth or closely supervising them brush their own teeth. “Children can see the pediatric dentist as soon as teeth begin to erupt and no later than age two to three years for first visit,” says Dr. Koljack. “Children who do not have teeth by 15 months of age should see a pediatric dentist.”
To help prevent tooth decay, in addition to regular brushing, Dr. Kolack tells parents to be aware of what their children are drinking throughout the day. “Children should not drink juice regularly – they should eat fruit instead,” she says. “Babies 12 months or younger should drink the amount of formula or milk (over the age of 12 months) recommended by their pediatrician, and the rest of the fluids should be water. Small amounts of citrus juice daily may be acceptable. Parents who are having problems with these recommendations for their children should talk with their pediatrician.”
If you have questions about your child’s oral health, contact you pediatrician. To find a Utica Park Clinic provider, click here or call 918-579-DOCS.