Recently, my family made a move in homes to a more rural location. This move meant switching from community supplied water to a well as our water source. Why do I care about the source of our water as long as it is bacteria free? Well, many of you may not know but your community supplied water is fluorinated for the benefit of little developing teeth! And with BusyBee just turning 2 years old and Sprout being 4 years old there are a lot of developing teeth in our household!
According to the American Dental Association, teeth need both systemic and topical fluoride for normal development of enamel and cavity prevention.
Most individuals get their systemic fluoride from the community fluoride additive. This fluoride is incorporated into the developing tooth structure for long lasting protection. Fluoride has been added to the water in most developed countries as it has been shown to be the single most effective measure to prevent tooth decay. And with over 51 million school hours lost due to dental related illness in 2000, this is no minor problem! Good news for those of us with children living in areas without fluorinated water, this can be replaced with a supplement. So talk with your pediatrician if you are in a well water supplied area for a prescription!
Topical Fluoride is provided in toothpaste and mouthwashes. Current recommendations by the ADA and AAP are to use a smear of fluoride toothpaste in children less than 2 years and pea size amount in those 2-6 years to reduce the amount swallowed. Children should be assisted in brushing their teeth to ensure topical exposure to all surfaces and removal of sugars from the tooth surface until they are 10 years old or able to adequately brush independently.
Aside from fluoride, here are some other tips to keep your children’s teeth healthy even before they cut them!
- Never prop bottles in children’s mouths when feeding. This leads to prolonged exposure and pooling of milk (which contains sugar) on their teeth.
- Introduce a cup around 6 months of age and wean the bottle around 1 year of age (again to prevent the pooling of milk on the back teeth).
- Decrease overnight feeds after tooth eruption or wipe the teeth after any overnight feeds to prevent sugar from remaining on the teeth.
- Eliminate bottles of any sugar containing liquids (including milk) in bed (water only after brushing!).
- Brush teeth daily at night after tooth eruption and twice daily (morning and night) after 1 year of age.
- For children over 1 year of age limit juice intake to 4 ounces per day.
- Children should see a pediatric dentist 6 months after the first tooth eruption or at 12 months of age, whichever comes first.
- Eliminate exposure to bacteria that cause cavities by also taking care of your own teeth! (bacteria can be spread by kissing, sucking on your babies pacifier, etc.)
Remember, putting in the extra effort now for healthy tooth development in our children will be rewarded with a lifetime of beautiful smiles!
Dr. Meyer is a pediatric endocrinologist at Dayton Children’s Hospital. She is the mother of two boys who she lovingly refers to as “Busy Bee” and “Sprout!” As part of the “Dr. Mom Squad,” Dr. Meyer blogs about her experiences as both as doctor and a mom and hopes to share insight to other parents on issues related to both parenting and kids health.