When it comes to keeping your teeth healthy, prevention is key. Dental visits should not only be for emergencies. Focusing on good oral hygiene means fewer dental emergencies, less costly dental procedures, and ultimately it helps you to keep your teeth. Seeing a dentist or dental hygienist for a dental cleaning regularly will help better prevent tooth decay and gum disease – the two main causes of tooth loss.
This is why good oral health is especially important for children, and pregnant women. Developing good habits early in life and receiving preventative care will significantly improve oral health into adulthood.
One of the most common chronic health problems in children is tooth decay, or cavities. Cavities can cause pain and infections that may lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing and learning.
The good news is that cavities can be prevented. Children should have their first dental visit no later than one year of age. As soon as a baby has teeth, they can get cavities. Regular dental cleanings are important for preventing decay.
Dental hygienists focus on preventative dental health and regular visits can help catch any oral health issues early. And Hygienists can provide advice on correct home care to help prevent costly dental issues as children grow, this includes:
- Kids should brush for two minutes, twice a day and use fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride helps make teeth stronger and it doesn’t take much to clean kids’ teeth. For children ages 0-3, you only need toothpaste the size of a grain of rice, and for children 3 and older a pea size amount of toothpaste. Brushing after meals and especially before bed helps fight bacteria and keep it from lingering on teeth.
- Make flossing a habit. Each tooth has five sides, so brushing alone only cleans about half of the surface of your teeth. Flossing cleans in between the teeth and it only takes a few minutes a day.
- Eat healthy and avoid sugary food and beverages like soda and juice. Sugar reacts with the bacteria in plaque and produces harmful acids that can attach to your teeth. Avoiding sugary, processed foods and eating a balanced diet that is rich in vitamins, minerals, fresh fruits and vegetables can help to prevent gum disease that causes bad breath and tooth loss. Drinking fluoridated water can help protect teeth.
- Never put your baby to bed with a bottle. Long exposure to drinks that contain sugar (including milk) can cause Baby Bottle Tooth Decay. First teeth help make sure adult teeth come in correctly, so following good oral health care for infants will impact their smile for decades to come.
- Oral health is an important part of prenatal care too. Pregnant women are more prone to gum disease and cavities, which can lead to poor health outcomes for the mother and their baby. Children are more than three times as likely to have tooth decay if their mothers have high levels of untreated tooth decay during pregnancy.
Preventative dental care for kids, including checkups, cleanings, X-rays and sealants, is available at Northwest Colorado Health’s Community Health Centers and through the school-based health mobile dental clinic. The mobile dental clinic alternates between Strawberry Park Elementary/Steamboat Springs Middle School, Soda Creek Elementary and Sleeping Giant Schools on Wednesdays from 9am-4pm; and Hayden Valley Schools on Thursdays from 9am-4pm. The mobile unit is also at the Boys and Girls Club of Craig on Fridays. Insurance, including Medicaid, is accepted and patients without insurance can pay for services on a sliding scale, making dental care more affordable and accessible for families. Call 970-824-8000 to make a dental appointment for your child ages 0-21 at the Community Health Center, or 970-870-4158 to make a school-based health dental appointment. Learn more at northwestcoloradohealth.org.