Oral health for children

Jennifer Beaulieu
Alberta Health Services

Despite improvements in oral health, dental cavities continue to be common in childhood. To maintain those beautiful smiles, adults need to provide oral health care for their infants and young children and help brush and floss their children’s teeth until they turn eight years old.
Check your baby’s mouth monthly. Watch for whitish lines along the gum line that don’t brush off and brown or black areas or spots. These could be signs of tooth decay. If you see these signs, take your child to a dental health professional. The Canadian Dental Association recommends the assessment of infants, by a dentist, within six months of their first tooth or by one year of age.
Try not to put your baby to bed with a bottle and avoid passing your own cavity germs on to your baby. Don’t put the bottle nipple or soother in your mouth and then put it in your baby’s mouth. Clean your baby’s gums twice a day with a clean damp cloth. As soon as the first tooth appears begin brushing twice a day with a small, soft bristled toothbrush and water and floss between teeth that are touching.
As soon as a child can spit out the toothpaste a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste should be used. Children should spit out any remaining toothpaste and avoid rinsing. The fluoride and minerals in the toothpaste help to prevent cavities. Fluoride is known to have a protective effect against dental cavities. In infants and children with pre-erupted teeth, ingested fluoride is incorporated into the structure of developing tooth enamel, making it more resistant to decay after eruption. After eruption fluorides applied to the tooth’s enamel help prevent cavities. The best available scientific evidence supports regular fluoride applications to improve oral health and reduce dental cavities.
Alberta Health Services offers free fluoride applications for eligible children 12 to 35 months old to help protect their teeth from cavities. Go to ahs.ca/oralhealth and use the interactive tool to determine if your child is eligible for free fluoride varnish applications. Children only need to have a few teeth to start getting fluoride applications. Applications are given four times, once every six months by a registered dental assistant or a registered dental hygienist.
At the appointment, the child sits on their parents lap while the dental professional applies fluoride on the child’s teeth using a small brush. The procedure takes less than a minute. The child can eat and drink right after the treatment. It slowly wears off when the teeth are brushed. If the child has asthma, please bring their asthma reliever medicine to the appointment.
For more information please call your local Public Health office, visit ahs.ca/oralhealth or call Healthlink at 811. Information on a variety of other health topics can be found at myhealth.alberta.ca.

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