Dr. Rob Mirabelli, Dr. Jen Mirabelli & Dr. Stefanie Hourani
Why Good Dental Health is Important
Many scientific studies have been conducted on the importance of starting children early with good dental hygiene and oral care. Amazingly, the most common chronic childhood disease in America is tooth decay. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry Reference Manual, 40% of children will have a cavity before they start kindergarten and 78% will have a cavity by the time they turn 17 years old. Early examinations and preventative treatment help to avoid problems that negatively affect a child's health, well-being, self-image and overall achievement.
The National Institute of Dental & Craniofacial Research estimates that US children will miss 52 million hours of school each year due to oral health problems and endure 12.5 million days of restricted activity every year from dental symptoms. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry Reference Manual, in 1996, students aged 5-17 years old missed an average of 3.1 days per 100 students due to acute dental problems. Because of the potential for significant loss in students' academic participation, children's oral health should be a priority for parents and educators, in addition to dentists.
Parents and guardians are responsible for instilling good dental hygiene practices in children. Parents must introduce proper oral care early in a child's life. A good oral hygiene plan for children includes:
- Thoroughly cleaning your infant's gums after feedings with a water-soaked infant cloth or xylitol towelette. This stimulates the gum tissue and removes food. Cavity prevention is even more enhanced if xylitol towelette is used.
- Teaching your child at an early age about proper brushing techniques with a small, soft-bristled toothbrush is very important. For 1-3 year olds, only apply a thin smear or 'grain-of-rice' sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste to the brush. For 3-6 year olds, only use a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste. Once your child has achieved an understanding of toothbrushing, you can then introduce your child to gentle flossing. Generally, your child should be supervised and have help with brushing until about 7 years old (or when they can tine their own shoe laces).
- Making regular visits with a dentist to check for cavities and other dental concerns.
- Encouraging your child to discuss any concerns they may have about oral health visits, but not mentioning any fears that you may possess as an adult. Children should be a blank slate before their first visit, and discussing parents' dental fears can negatively prepare children for their first visit.
- Determining if the water your child is drinking contains fluoride. Community tap water, well water, bottled water, and filtered water all have varying amounts of fluoride and can affect your child's teeth in different ways. The tap water at our address is provided by the Phoenix Municipal Water Service and is fluoridated to the appropriate concentration of 0.70mg/L. If your tap water does not come from this source, you can research the fluoride content in your community through the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. This information can be found here
- The grooves on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth are very deep and difficult to clean of bacteria and food. Even though your children may be brushing regularly, their toothbrush bristles may not reach to the depths of the crevices of these back teeth. As a result, the remaining bacteria and food interact, acids are produced, and a cavity is formed. Tooth sealants protect these susceptible grooves by sealing them off and preventing bacteria and food from residing there. Sealants are typically composed of a resin material that can last for several years, but can chip off if children are frequent ice-chewers. Consequently, sealants need to be checked during regular appointments.
No local anesthetic (no injection) is needed for the placement of sealants. All that needs to be done, is to use cotton rolls and air spray to dry the molar to be sealed and isolate it from the saliva. The sealant is painted on the grooves and a curing light is used to set the material.
Correct placement of a dental sealant is a very effective way to reduce the risk of getting a cavity on the grooves and fissures of a permanent molar. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry Reference Manual, a child who receives dental sealants is 72% less likely to receive a dental restoration over the 3 years following the placement of the sealant as compared to children who did not receive dental sealants.