Keeping it clean: Truckee Tahoe children’s oral health |

Keeping it clean: Truckee Tahoe children’s oral health

According to the Centers for Disease Control, tooth decay affects more children in the United States than any other chronic infectious disease. Although the oral health of children has improved significantly over the past few decades, tooth decay is still five times as common as asthma and seven times as common as hay fever. However, unlike asthma, tooth decay and other oral diseases are preventable.

Pediatric dentistry is a specialty that focuses on the oral health and unique needs of young people. Pediatric dentists have additional education and hands-on experience that prepares them to meet the needs of infants, children and adolescents.

Establishing a dental home for your child provides an opportunity to implement preventive dental health habits that keep children free from dental/oral disease.

The dental home is an ongoing relationship between the dentist and patient, much the same as the relationship your child has with his/her pediatrician. Children who have a dental home are more likely to receive appropriate preventive and routine oral health care. Early identification of oral health problems is not only cost effective but leads to improved outcomes in dental health.

A common question parents ask is when their child should first see a dentist. The answer is when the first tooth comes in, usually between 6 and 12 months. As these first teeth erupt into the mouth they are beginning to get infected with the bacteria that can cause tooth decay.

Additionally, once a child’s diet includes anything besides breast milk, erupted teeth are at risk for decay.

Our role as dentists, especially pediatric dentists, is not to simply fix teeth that have cavities, but rather to prevent cavities from starting. Preventive dentistry for children includes education about proper brushing, dental development, use of fluorides, proper diet and oral habits. Pediatric dentists are often asked why it is so important to keep baby teeth healthy and free of cavities.

There are a number of critical functions baby teeth play in a child’s development. Not only do children with healthy teeth chew food more easily and smile with more confidence, but baby teeth are also involved in proper speech development. More importantly, baby teeth encourage normal development of the jaw bones and muscles. They save space for the adult teeth and help guide them into position. If a baby tooth is lost too soon, the teeth beside it may tilt or drift into the empty space. When this happens there is a lack of space in the jaw for the permanent teeth resulting in crowded or crooked teeth. Regular visits to the dentist are a vital part of maintaining your child’s overall health and reinforce the development of healthy lifetime habits.

” Dr. Matthew Gustafsson is an accredited pediatric dentist in the Truckee-Tahoe region, who has completed an American Dental Association accredited advanced post-doctoral program in pediatric dentistry. Call 550-9311,

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