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Take care of your child's teeth now

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POSTED: February 18, 2009 10:38 a.m.
Did you know that newborn babies have many teeth already formed and hidden from view in their jawbones? The first of these teeth (the four front teeth) usually come in around 6 months of age, and most children have a full set of primary teeth by the time they're 3 years old. As children grow out of the toddler stage, their jaws are also growing, making extra room for larger permanent teeth.
Around the age of 6 years, the primary or "baby" teeth begin to fall out and permanent teeth replace them. This process continues until a child is around 12 years old, when they get permanent cuspids and upper and lower second molars.
Good dental hygiene is important no matter your child's age or the size of their teeth. Primary teeth may be temporary, but they need good care. Healthy teeth are important for chewing and pronouncing words properly. Infections from decaying primary teeth can damage developing permanent teeth, resulting in changes in formation and color.
Primary teeth are susceptible to decay as soon as they appear in the mouth. Infant and toddler tooth decay is most often caused when a child's teeth are frequently exposed to sugary liquids for long periods. This can be prevented by never allowing your infant or toddler to fall asleep with a bottle containing milk, formula, fruit juices or sweetened liquid. It's also important not to dip a pacifier in sugar or honey. If your infant wants a "comforter" between regular feedings or at bedtime, give him a clean pacifier. You should also wipe toothless gums with a wet washcloth or clean gauze pad after each feeding.
Start brushing teeth with a little water as soon as they appear. Brush or assist toddlers to make sure they are hitting all the spots. Use only a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste and make sure they don't swallow it. Children should be taught to spit out remaining toothpaste and rinse with water after brushing.
By the time they are
7 years old, children should be able to brush their own teeth, but some supervision is recommended until they are around 10 or 11 years old. Tooth care for children should also include flossing, and parents may
need to help until a child
is around 10 years old
as flossing requires a
little more skill than brushing.
Although tooth decay has declined among young children, it can still be a problem for some - even some teens and adults. That's because plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, constantly forms on teeth when we eat or drink foods containing sugars or starches. The bacteria in plaque produce acids that attack tooth enamel. The stickiness of plaque keeps these acids in contact with teeth and after many such attacks, the enamel may break down and a cavity will form.
More than half of all children ages 5 to 9 years have at least one cavity or filling. Dental problems are a very common cause of school absences. A good rule of thumb is to schedule dental examinations at the same time as back-to-school physical examinations or hearing and vision testing. A dental examination is as important as booster shots. Serious tooth decay can lead to sinsus and other health problems.
While purchasing sports equipment, make sure you include a mouth guard. Many dental injuries are known to occur in children while playing sports and it's much less traumatic and expensive to prevent chipped or lost permanent teeth with a mouth guard than it is to have reconstructive oral surgery.
Ways to prevent decay include:
• Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
• Clean between teeth daily with floss or an inter-dental cleaner.
• Eat a balanced diet and limit between-meal snacks.
• Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral exams.
• Ask your dentist about dental sealants, a protective plastic coating that can be applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth where decay often starts.
 

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