Educating Dental Patients in Macon
Infants and children are not immune to oral health problems. In 2002, "Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General" found that dental caries (tooth decay or cavities) is the most chronic childhood ailment – five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever.
In 2005, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that tooth decay is the most chronic disease among children aged five to 17. Oral health problems affecting infants are no less serious.
Diet and the Oral Health Implications
What your children eat affects their teeth. Sugars (found in cake, cookies, candy, milk and juice) and starches (found in pretzels and potato chips) can cause tooth decay. Add to this the fact that it is more difficult to clean babies' and children's teeth and you can see why debris tends to remain in children's teeth, resulting in bacteria growth and, ultimately, tooth decay.
Although baby teeth (deciduous or primary teeth) are eventually replaced with permanent teeth, healthy baby teeth are fundamental to a child's overall health and development.
Baby-to-Child Dental Checklist
- Some babies are born with neonatal teeth (teeth that develop in the first month) that require dental hygiene or a visit to the dentist for their removal. At least one baby tooth erupts by six months of age, and yes, it requires cleaning.
- From six months to 24 months, children begin teething in earnest, indicated by irritability, biting on objects, drooling and ear pulling. As a parent, you can help teething progress by using strategies such as massaging your child's gums, offering a chilled teething ring or cold, wet washcloth and asking your dentist for a teething ointment recommendation.
- By three years of age, most if not all baby teeth have erupted. Soon after four years, spaces for permanent teeth begin to appear as the jaw, supporting bone structure and facial bones begin to grow.
- From six to 12, it is typical for your child to have both baby teeth and permanent teeth in their mouth.
Oral Health Care Necessities for Children & Infants
Here's a list of dental care necessities from birth on up:
- Baby Teeth Cleaning: Baby teeth should be cleaned as soon as they erupt. Clean your baby's teeth with a soft washcloth or gauze after every bottle or meal. When more than one tooth erupts, you can soak a small-bristled child-sized (age-appropriate) toothbrush in warm water before using it on your baby's teeth, as instructed by your dentist.
- Baby teeth should be brushed using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Use water without fluoride until approximately six months of age. Encourage your children to brush their own teeth once they have the coordination to do so. Replace toothbrushes every two to three months.
- Children's teeth should be brushed after they are given medicine. Acids contained in medicines may eat away at tooth enamel, which serves as a natural protective coating for the teeth.
- First Dental Visit: It is important that your child see a dentist by age one to establish a long-term dental hygiene and professional dental cleaning plan.
- Dental Sealant Application: Dental sealants are used to protect teeth from decay and are appropriate as soon as a tooth erupts.
- Fluoride Treatments: Check with your dentist and water authority about the need for fluoride treatments. Fluoride is a major component in the prevention of childhood dental caries. This is because fluoride alters the molecular structure of the tooth, making it more resistant to acid attack and decay. However, children require the right balance of fluoride treatment. Too much fluoride could be problematic and lead to fluorosis.
- Dental Flossing: Parent-assisted dental flossing should commence when two teeth erupt next to each other. Independent flossing should occur when children have the ability to do it on their own (often by six years of age).
- Mouth Washing: Mouth washing is usually recommended by age seven, provided your child can perform the activity.
- Orthodontics: Orthodontics may be appropriate by seven years of age.
Years ago, orthodontic treatments were used only for preteens and teens having problems with their bite (malocclusion). Today, orthodontic treatments such as dental braces are not only for preteens and teens, but for adults as well.
Close to 30 percent of all orthodontic patients in the United States are adults. Despite this growing trend towards adult orthodontics, it pays to start orthodontic treatment early for maximum effectiveness. The American Dental Association recommends that children receive an orthodontic evaluation by age seven.
The Restorative and Esthetic Nature of Orthodontics
Since malocclusion may interfere with eating and speaking, it is usually considered a restorative issue. However, because a malocclusion may prevent the development of a beautiful, well-aligned smile or facial jaw lines, it may also be classified as an esthetic issue and categorized as cosmetic dentistry.
No matter what your age, orthodontics can protect your bite (occlusion), maximize your teeth's effectiveness in performing their functions and create a well-aligned smile. Today's orthodontics involve repositioning of the teeth and underlying roots, providing better support for the crown of the tooth. Orthodontic treatment is now associated with the benefits of greater esthetic appeal, increased comfort and reduced treatment time.
Orthodontic treatment can also rejuvenate your facial appearance by reshaping the jaw, neck and lips, especially when combined with maxillofacial surgical procedures. In addition, well-aligned teeth make oral hygiene easier to maintain.
Orthodontists are the dentists who focus on the practice of orthodontics. An orthodontist is typically required to complete an additional two to three years of post-dental school education before becoming a certified practitioner of orthodontics.
The Orthodontic Evaluation
If you are a candidate for orthodontics, you will likely be referred by your general dentist to an orthodontist for evaluation of your bite. During your first orthodontic visit, your orthodontist may use several methods to develop an individualized treatment plan, including:
- Oral, facial and functional evaluation (examination)
- Intraoral and facial photographs
- Panoramic and cephalometric X-rays
- Impressions for models of the teeth and bite
An orthodontist reviews your dental records, performs a clinical assessment, takes X-rays of your mouth and head and makes models of the teeth by creating an accurate impression of them. The results of this evaluation are studied in order to formulate the best orthodontic treatment plan.
Typically, during the second visit, your orthodontist reviews the treatment plan and estimates the number of months for the active phase of treatment. The standard treatment phase is two years. Following treatment, you may be required to wear a retainer for a period of time.
The duration of orthodontic treatment varies based on your age, the extensiveness of the procedure (some people require more work than others) and how closely you follow your treatment plan. For example, younger patients may respond more quickly to treatment than older patients because the bones supporting young teeth are more pliable than those supporting older teeth. However, adults tend to follow treatment instructions more consistently than pre-teens.
In some cases, the treatment time is longer. For example, oral surgery and recovery may be needed before or during orthodontic treatment.
Proper Tooth Care
How Should I Care for My Teeth and Gums?
There are five basic steps to caring for teeth and gums:
- Eating right
- Visiting the dentist
Tips for Brushing Your Teeth
Brush at least twice a day. If you can, brush after every meal. Brushing removes plaque, a film of bacteria that clings to teeth. When bacteria in plaque come into contact with food, they produce acids. These acids lead to cavities. To brush:
- Place a pea-sized dab of fluoride toothpaste on the head of a soft toothbrush.
- Place the toothbrush against the teeth at a 45-degree angle to the gumline.
- Move the brush across the teeth using a small circular motion. Continue with this motion, cleaning one tooth at a time. Keep the tips of the bristles against the gumline. Avoid pressing so hard that the bristles lie flat against the teeth. (Only the tips of the toothbrush clean the teeth.) Let the bristles reach into spaces between teeth.
- Brush across the top of the chewing surfaces of the teeth. Make sure the bristles get into the grooves and crevices.
- Use the same small circular motion to clean the backside of the upper and lower teeth -- the side that faces the tongue.
- To clean the inside of the bottom front teeth, angle the head in an up-and-down position toward the bottom inside of the mouth and move the toothbrush in a small circle.
- For the inside of the top front teeth, angle the brush in an up-and-down position with the tip of the head pointing toward the roof of the mouth. Move the toothbrush in a small circle.
- Give your tongue a few gentle brush strokes, brushing from the back of your tongue forward. Do not scrub. This helps remove bacteria and freshens your breath.
- After brushing your teeth for two to three minutes, rinse your mouth with water.
- Replace your toothbrush with a new one every three to four months.
Tips for Flossing Your Teeth
Floss teeth once a day. Flossing gets rid of food and plaque between the teeth, where your toothbrush cannot reach. If plaque stays between teeth, it can harden into tartar, which must be removed by a dentist. To floss:
- Remove about an 18-inch strip of floss from the dispenser.
- Wind the floss around the middle fingers of each hand, leaving a 1-inch section open for flossing. Floss the top teeth first, then the bottom.
- Place the floss in your mouth and use your index fingers to push the floss between the teeth. Be careful not to push too hard and injure the gums.
- Move the floss up and down against the tooth and up and around the gumline. The floss should form a C-shape around the tooth as you floss.
- Floss between each tooth as well as behind the back teeth.
- Use a clean section of floss as needed and take up used floss by winding it around the fingers.
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