The month of February is National Children's Dental Health Month, and with that in mind we decided to speak to Dr. Nancy Jo Soporowski, a pediatric dentist and partner at Natick Dental Partners to find out some of the more common problems she sees in children's dental care, and also to find some tips to improving dental care.
"Prevention and education are everything," Soporowski said. "Sometimes if you see things early you can do things to lessen the problems in the future."
Here are some tips that Dr. Soporowski offered:
- Once teeth touch you should start to floss. You should brush twice each day, while flossing once. Parents should be vigilant in supervising protocol for oral hygiene.
- Establishing a routine is the key to oral hygiene and snacking. Soporowski talks a lot about the frequency of snacking and also what children are eating for snacks. She mentioned sticky foods and having a lot of sugary drinks as something to be careful of, also noting that diet soda, despite not containing sugar, has acid that isn't good for teeth.
- If children are playing contact sports, they should wear proper protective equipment, such as a mouthguard.
- Soporowski said children should get one visit to the dentist by the time they're one. This is important because the kids can begin to get educated on dental health early. Learning how to brush at a young age and seeing a dentist early can help catch problems early.
- It's important to assess any orthodontic problems early. Two visits to the dentist each year can also help assess the growth and development of teeth, as well as catch problems.
Here are some common mistakes made in children's dental care:
- Snacks and drink choices. Soporowski again mentioned sticky snacks, as well as sodas and sports drinks.
- When children have orthodontic appliances it can be tougher for them to thoroughly brush their teeth because the appliances are obstacles. Because of this, Soporowski sometimes recommends a third cleaning
- Oftentimes children don't brush for an appropriate amount of time. They should brush for two minutes. One suggestion is to try brushing with music playing. This makes it seem like it's not taking as long to some people. Also, children aren't supervised when brushing. Supervising a child ensures that (s)he is really brushing his/her teeth and doing it properly.
- Make regular dental visits, and keep your ears open while there. Part of the routine is that everyone is different so the technique is different based on the teeth.
- The frequency of snacking is a common mistake. Grazers, people who make a snack last for a long period of time instead of eating it all at once, will likely have more cavities.
Dr. Soporowski also mentioned that using an electric toothbrush isn't bad, but a manual can be good too if using the correct technique. Once-in-a-while a manual should still be used so the child can learn the skill.