2008-02-01 / Health

February is Children's Dental Health Month

TheAmerican DentalAssociation (ADA) has declared February as Children's Dental Health Month. It is a time for local dentists to visit schools and to increase awareness on the importance of good oral hygiene and eating habits.Teaching young children the significance of brushing the teeth and following a routine of good brushing/flossing habits and healthy eating is strongly suggested. In addition, theADA recommends that children should be seen by a dentist around the first birthday.Prevention such as regular cleanings, examinations and fluoride treatments provide your child with"smile insurance" that could last their lifetime!

Remembering the following tips will help develop healthy habits to maintain healthy teeth and gums throughout life:

•Young children should be exposed to the dental office to promote a positive experience and familiarize them with the environment and procedures.

•An infant's gums should be cleaned daily with a wet washcloth and teeth should be cleaned with a brush and water when the first tooth appears.

• Children should be seen by a dentist around the first birthday.

• Bottle drinking (especially at bed and naptimes) should be discouraged when teeth begin to emerge to reduce the chance of decay formation on baby teeth. Children should use an open cup instead or a bottle filled with plain water.

• Kids should brush teeth at least twice daily (especially before going to bed) with a fluoride toothpaste (once they can spit it out).For better results,brushing should occur after every meal (or at least rinse the mouth after eating).

• Children should floss daily (or use an interdental cleaner) to remove plaque and debris trapped between teeth and along the gums.Young children should be assisted by a parent.

• Fluoride (an important component of building strong,healthy teeth) needs to be ingested daily at proper levels.Too little can have an effect on teeth and too much can be dangerous.Some towns add fluoride to their water supply so supplemental fluoride is not necessary,but other towns do not.One can obtain information in the water supply by contacting the town water company.Parents should discuss fluoride supplements with their pediatrician or dentist.

• Between-meal snacks should be limited and healthier choices for snacking such as cheese, raw vegetables,plain yogurt, sugarless gum/candy should be offered.For older children,nuts and popcorn are also smart choices.

• If parents set a good example for oral hygiene and nutrition habits,children will often imitate these skills.

•As children age, they need to be taught proper brushing and flossing routines.Parents should provide instruction in a fun manner and check with the dentist or hygienist to be sure that technique is correct.

•Teenagers (especially those with braces) need to take extra care in brushing. Gum chewing and snacking on sugary and starchy foods combined with irregular brushing habits tend to develop an increased risk for tooth decay and cavities.

• Professional mouthguards should be considered to protect children during sports activities including rollerblading, bike riding, scooters,gymnastics,as well as contact sports such as football,karate and wrestling.According to theAmerican DentalAssociation," mouthguards help cushion blows that might otherwise cause broken teeth and injuries to the lips, tongue, face or jaw.Mouthguards may also reduce the severity and incidence of concussions."A properly fitted mouthguard is essential.

An ounce of prevention can save big money in the long run.With good oral hygiene habits and regular dental examinations, cleanings,and fluoride treatments, decay can be prevented (or caught early and treated early before problems become bigger ones).However, if problems arise, the latest advances in technology can make the trip to the dentist easier and more comfortable.

When caught early,cavities can be treated with minimal discomfort,making for a more positive dental experience.Early identification and treatment of dental problems should be the main priority when visiting the dentist and there are many technological advances to aid the dentist in earlier diagnosis for treatment of cavities, oral cancer and gum disease.The goal of conservative dentistry is the preservation of tooth structure with earlier treatment.

Today,dentists are using lasers to"zap" decay without the need for injection (in most cases),equipment for visualization of the oral cavity for earlier diagnosis of oral cancer (not yet visible to the naked eye),Xray systems with much less radiation exposure that are environmentally friendly,and laser decay probes (DIAGNOdent) to find decay before it becomes visible on the Xray or during the dental"probe."

The latest technology is used to make visits more thorough,comfortable,and less stressful in the Manalapan office of Dr. Steven Burman."We're trying to change the way the dental visit is perceived.Dentistry can be relaxing and early identification actually helps patients to save money by avoiding more complex and costly procedures. Our patients become well-educated on their oral conditions, the technology we offer as standard care,and they see the value in their visit for optimal overall health. We have many patients who say they enjoy coming to our office.We are the forerunners in technology and have raised the bar for dental visits in our area."

The office of Dr.Burman can be reached by calling (732) 972-9950 or visiting www.stevenburman.com.

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