Cool Jobs: Coloring Their Community, One Flower at a TimeFebruary 2024
When it comes to dental health and kids, the good news is that 75% of U.S. children ages 1–17 received preventive dental care in the past year, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT® Data Center. The bad news is, Louisiana was one of four U.S. states with the lowest percentage (73%) of children “with teeth in good or excellent condition.” That means more than 1 in 4 kids in Louisiana are in dire need of dental care. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that more than half of children aged 6 to 8 have had a cavity in at least one of their baby (primary) teeth and more than half of adolescents aged 12 to 19 have had a cavity in at least one of their permanent teeth.
What can parents and caregivers do?
- Wipe gums twice a day with a soft, clean cloth in the morning after the first feeding and right before bed to wipe away bacteria and sugars that can cause cavities.
- When teeth come in, start brushing twice a day with a soft, smallbristled toothbrush and plain water.
- Visit the dentist by your baby’s first birthday to spot signs of problems early.
- Talk to your dentist or doctor about putting fluoride varnish on your child’s teeth as soon as the first tooth appears.
For children younger than 2, consult first with your doctor or dentist regarding the use of fluoride toothpaste.
- Brush their teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
- Help your child brush their teeth until they have good brushing skills.
If your child is younger than 6, watch them brush. Make sure they use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and always spit it out rather than swallow.
- Ask your child’s dentist to apply dental sealants when appropriate.
- Drink tap water that contains fluoride.
What Age Is Best for Braces?
Straight Talk about Early Orthodontic Treatment
by Kristy Como Armand
Most people associate braces with the teenage years but today, children are more likely to get braces at an earlier age, according to orthodontist Craig Crawford, DDS, with Crawford Orthodontics. “While orthodontics can improve a smile at any age, there is an optimal time period to begin treatment, and in many cases, this time period is when a child is in their pre-teens.”
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children have an orthodontic evaluation no later than age seven. Dr. Crawford says by this age, most children have a good mix of baby and adult teeth, which enables orthodontists to make a good assessment. “By no means are we saying that most children need braces at this early age. Braces are not usually recommended until most of a child’s adult teeth have erupted. But this initial exam will allow us to spot any potential problems that may exist, even if your child’s teeth appear straight. Many orthodontic problems are easier and less complicated to correct earlier, rather than later.”
For example, orthodontists can direct extractions of baby teeth which may allow adult teeth to come in straighter, possibly preventing the need for braces altogether. As a child gets older, regular examinations may be recommended to monitor growth and development, with any needed treatment recommended at the appropriate time.”
In addition, there are some situations in which young children do require orthodontic treatment. “This is referred to as ‘interceptive orthodontics,’ and typically involves interventions that begin before a child starts first grade,” explains Dr. Crawford. “At this age, tooth development and jaw growth have not been completed, so certain conditions are easier to address.” He says interceptive treatment can be used to create room for crowded, erupting teeth, create facial symmetry by influencing jaw growth, reduce the risk of trauma to protruding front teeth, preserve space for un-erupted permanent teeth and reduce treatment time with braces, among other benefits.
Dr. Crawford uses an advanced 3-D imaging system that is extremely helpful with interceptive orthodontics. “This imaging technology and modeling system provides us with very accurate and complete images for diagnosis and treatment planning, without the more cumbersome – and messy – dental impressions. The system allows us to not only see current alignment and teeth, but also to more precisely predict limits of tooth movement and bone support. It also enables us to perform 3-D treatment simulations, eliminating a lot of the guess work in treatment planning.”
When braces are needed in younger children, Dr. Crawford says the process today is more kid-friendly and fun, with brightly colored alastics, the tiny rubber bands that hold the wires to the braces. “Kids can choose alastics to match their favorite colors, school uniforms, team colors, a holiday color scheme, etc,” says Dr. Crawford. “This helps keep the kids excited about the treatment.”
For some younger teens, invisible aligners may also be an option. These are made of a medical grade clear plastic, which are custom-made for each patient and move teeth incrementally, in a process similar to conventional braces. Dr. Crawford says the aligners are not only more aesthetically appealing to teens but are also often a better fit for their typically busy lifestyles.
The good news is with earlier treatment, older teens will not only have a great smile, but also one less thing to worry about in their high school years.
For more information about braces at any age, call Crawford Orthodontics at (337) 478-7590 or visit www.drcrawfordorthodontics.com.
Good Food Leads to Healthier Teeth
Diet and nutrition play a crucial role in children’s dental health, influencing the development of their teeth and overall oral well-being. The relationship between what children consume and the health of their teeth is intricate, with dietary choices impacting not only the prevention of dental issues but also the maintenance of strong and resilient teeth.
One of the primary negative factors in dental health is the consumption of sugary and acidic foods. Sugars serve as a source of energy for harmful bacteria in the mouth, leading to the production of acids that can erode tooth enamel. This process contributes to the formation of cavities, a prevalent issue in children. Candies, sodas, and sweet snacks are often culprits, and limiting their intake is crucial in preventing tooth decay. Parents and caregivers should be mindful of the frequency and timing of sugary food consumption, as prolonged exposure to sugar increases the risk of dental problems.
In addition to sugars, acidic foods and beverages can also pose a threat to dental health. Acidic substances, such as citrus fruits and carbonated drinks, can weaken tooth enamel, making teeth more susceptible to decay. Encouraging a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is important, but moderation and proper oral care are key to mitigating potential negative effects.
Conversely, a well-balanced and nutritious diet contributes to the development of strong teeth and gums. Essential nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D are crucial for the formation and maintenance of healthy teeth. Calcium, for example, is a key component of tooth enamel, and its adequate intake supports the strength and integrity of teeth. Dairy products, leafy green vegetables, and fortified foods are excellent sources of these essential nutrients.
The role of water in dental health should not be overlooked. Water helps to maintain proper hydration, which is essential for saliva production. Saliva plays a vital role in neutralizing acids, re-mineralizing tooth enamel, and washing away food particles and bacteria. Encouraging children to drink water regularly, especially between meals, can contribute significantly to oral health.
Educating parents and caregivers about the importance of a balanced diet and proper nutrition for children’s dental health is key. Establishing healthy eating habits early in life sets the foundation for a lifetime of good oral health. Dental professionals often provide guidance on age-appropriate nutrition and can offer personalized advice based on a child’s specific needs.
The impact of diet and nutrition on children’s dental health cannot be overstated. By promoting a diet rich in essential nutrients, limiting the intake of sugary and acidic foods, and emphasizing good hydration practices, parents and caregivers can play a significant role in safeguarding their children’s oral well-being. Regular dental check-ups, coupled with a nutritious diet, contribute to the overall health and longevity of a child’s smile.