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Tooth Decay Prevention
Tooth decay is nearly 100% preventable. Parents, healthcare doctors and dentists, working together, can establish healthy dental habits in young kids that will benefit them throughout life.
- Tooth decay is considered the most common chronic disease of childhood. Kids with tooth decay are at risk of life-long dental problems leading to pain, tooth loss, and expensive dental care. Tooth decay is also an independent risk factor for heart disease. Establishing good dental hygiene habits in childhood can decrease this risk.
- Your child's first visit to the dentist should occur around 1 year of age. This allows your child to have a "dental home" for routine care, as well as emergency care if a tooth is ever injured. The first visits with the dentist help identify if your child is at high risk of decay because of family history or other factors, and provide a personalized plan for prevention. You will also learn helpful strategies and techniques for taking care of your child's teeth.
- Begin a regular routine of cleaning the teeth once they emerge. Wipe the teeth and gums with a soft, damp washcloth twice a day to start. By 1 year old, switch to a soft, damp toothbrush and be consistent with twice a day brushing. By 2 years old, you can add a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste to the bristles. Once a child can spit well, between 3 to 4 years old, you can use a small pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Flossing should start once the teeth are touching, by 3 to 4 years old and sometimes sooner.
- Other than the city of Bozeman, most places in our area lack fluoride in the drinking water. Fluoride is an important element to insure the formation of hard enamel and dramatically lowers risk of tooth decay in baby teeth and permanent teeth. A small amount of fluoride is necessary starting at 6 months of age. If there isn't enough fluoride in your water, the doctor will prescribe a fluoride drop for your child to take daily.
- Other ways to prevent tooth decay include limiting sweet or sticky snacks like candy and raisins. Avoid continual snacking on foods like fish crackers and other foods. Avoid "gummy" vitamins as well.