Cameras let us capture priceless grins, but effective pediatric dental care makes a lifetime of healthy smiles.
Dr. Eduardo Marquez of Marquez Family Dentistry in Altoona and Dr. Jason R. Larkin of Larkin Family Dentistry in Patton explained the importance of children's tooth care. Both live in Hollidaysburg.
When does tooth care begin?
Mirror Moms photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Dr.?Eduardo Marquez talks about brushing with Abigail Auerbeck, 10, of Altoona during an appointment at Marquez Family Dentistry in Altoona.
"Some recommend starting at 6 months with a small, warm, finger cloth to gently clean baby's mouth. It gets them used to it," Larkin said.
That's also why the American Dental Association suggests visiting the dentist within six months of the first tooth. It can start healthy habits.
And brushing should start "as soon as one tooth appears." He said start with a baby toothbrush or washcloth. "Regular dentist's visits should start by 3. All 20 primary teeth are in and kids are ready."
Brush, floss and rinse daily
Brush at least twice daily
Start fluoride toothpaste at age 2
Use fluoride supplements while permanent teeth are forming (up to 15 or 16 years old)
Use fluoride rinse for permanent teeth
Brush for two minutes - sing the ABC's twice, slowly
Take younger children along to the dentist with older siblings
Schedule dentist appointments in the morning when kids are well rested and more cooperative
Serve a balanced, healthy diet
Skip regular six-month dental appointments
Feed your children after brushing at bedtime
Put baby to bed with anything other than water to drink
Allow thumb sucking or pacifiers after 6 years old
Swallow fluoride rinse or toothpaste
Did you know?
Baby's first tooth usually comes in between 4 and 7 months.
Eating sugar creates bacteria that break down into acid, causing tooth decay.
Even fruit juice contains sugar.
Acid on the teeth can attack for 20 minutes or longer.
The most important time to brush is just before bedtime.
Approximately 1 in 300 people are missing an adult or baby tooth.
Some municipalities slightly lower water fluoride in summer and raise it in winter.
Sources: American Dental Association, Dr. Jason R. Larkin and Dr. Eduardo Marquez
"In 10 seconds I can count the teeth and look for gum, cleaning, bite or jaw issues. I can learn a lot," Larkin added.
After the first visit, plan regular dental visits every six months.
People may think baby teeth are expendable because they will fall out, but Larkin and Marquez maintain baby tooth care could affect mouth development and the way permanent teeth arrive.
"Your overall health can be seen in [your] mouth. Even with baby teeth, infection can affect tooth pods of permanent teeth," Marquez said.
To show your children what to do, Larkin suggested, "Sit with your child facing away from you. Tilt his head back and brush his teeth." That way you get to all the surfaces and your child feels them too, so he knows.
"As soon as two teeth are touching, start flossing. The area between the teeth is an easy place for cavities to form," Marquez said.
The ADA indicates fluoride toothpaste and rinses treat surfaces of teeth in the mouth but supplements fortify forming teeth. Both dentists emphasized fluoride's importance.
"Those teeth are abut 11/2 times harder than regular calcium teeth. They resist more acid," said Larkin.
"Fluoride supplements (in a tablet or in the vitamin) are recommended until all permanent teeth arrive," Marquez said. "Once the teeth are in the mouth, treat the outside of teeth."
That can be done a fluoride rinse in addition to toothpaste.
For proper oral care, both dentists said X-rays are necessary.
"The benefits outweigh risks. Without X-rays, it's difficult to make a correct diagnosis," Marquez said.
"X-rays let you be certain if there's an issue," Larkin said.
Parents should beware of pacifers and thumb-sucking.
"It doesn't so much affect teeth as bones,"?Larkin said. The bottom or top-mouth bone structure gets pushed up or out - causing teeth to stick out.
"When this happens it can affect speech too," Marquez said.
Both dentists stress stopping the habits before a child is 6. After that, the habits have a greater possibility of damage.
Another treatment available is sealant.
"If a permanent tooth comes in with a deep crevice, dental sealant can fill it, preventing a hole where a cavity could form. It's one of the best preventative steps there is,"?Larkin said. "Sealants are held in by tension and set instantly. They are most effective when applied within the first six months after a tooth arrives. If there's no deep crevice, there's no reason for sealant."
What's the overall best advice?
"Avoid sugar," Marquez said. "That's what causes tooth decay. Next to that, make sure to brush and floss within 20 minutes of having sugar."
"The worst thing is to go to sleep without brushing," Larkin said.
And what about the Tooth Fairy?
Both dentists praised the Tooth Fairy.
"The Tooth Fairy is very important," Marquez said. "She's a wonderful way to relate to children."
"Now I can even e-mail the Tooth Fairy," Larkin said.