Right now, I have a very active toddler. He will be 2 years old next week and such a joy. Just like every other toddler, he gets into everything, tests our limits, and sees if we will respond the same way every time he does something. It’s just so much fun. Exhausting, but fun… While this behavior I understand to be completely normal, exploratory behavior for a toddler, I still strive to make sure I am responding in the best ways I can.
When Nicolas was an infant he was very colicky. I thought I was going to lose my mind. My husband would stand for hours next to a running dryer attempting to ease his crying, (my sons crying that is, not my husbands) just so I could get a little rest. I came across a book “On Becoming Baby Wise,” by Gary Ezzo, that discussed a schedule for babies and how it helps. The book was very strict to its scheduling and I followed it for a week. Like magic, Nicolas became a normal, pleasant baby. Who knew that babies needed consistency to be comforted? I sure didn’t. I went from there using the schedule as more of a routine and stuck with it. Since “Baby Wise” worked for me, I of course bought “On Becoming Toddler Wise” in hopes that I could keep myself from being a victim of crazy toddler temper tantrums and all that comes with it.
Ok, where am I going with this? Last night, I was reading a chapter about biting. Thankfully, my little guy has not bitten any children. Something jumped out at me. Gary Ezzo said, “Biting is as normal as tooth decay. Well, as normal as something can be without prevention.” How often is it said that cavities are normal? To an extent, yes we can say they are normal. According to the CDC, it is the most common childhood disease. Yes, childhood disease. Cancer is not normal, but children seem to be getting it an awful lot these days. If something is considered normal simply because of its common nature, should it still be considered normal if it is preventable? I am not sure. However, I am not here to argue that. I am simply here in hopes to be the preventive aspect of this “normal childhood disease.” That is my job. A dental hygienist, if you were wondering, is on the preventive side of dentistry. Dental hygienists are licensed oral health professionals specializing in prevention and treatment of oral diseases, as well as protection of patients’ total health. Taking xrays, cleaning teeth (removing biofilms that cause disease), applying sealants to prevent decay… we prevent. We are also educators. Educating our patients is the best step toward prevention. And let’s face it, learning at a young age is the best time to learn anything that will benefit you for the rest of your life. Baby teeth will fall out. If not cared for properly before they fall out, they can effect the gums, bone structure that supports the teeth, and the adult tooth that emerges beneath.
Healthy teeth for a lifetime? I started brushing my sons teeth the moment they came in. From a young age he became used to the tooth brush in his mouth. He would open once I started singing the tooth brush song. Then, after some time, the song didn’t work. He started responding to “ahhhh!” Then that stopped working. Now, he just wants to hold the toothbrush himself. Boy does he put up a fight. It is a battle to brush his teeth most of the time. Choose your battles – good advice for marriage and parenting. However, oral health is a battle I am not passing on. Too often I see young children with cavities and I will do everything I can to prevent it. Prevention is the first step. Yeah, sure, genetics has its role. But trust me, it doesn’t play as big of a role as you would think. Most of the time the problems that are passed down from generation to generation are not genetic so much as shared habits. As a child, you share your parents diet and hygiene. Diet and Hygiene are the first keys of prevention. So how can you prevent this “normal” childhood disease?
- Diet/Nutrition -Avoid a high sugar/carb diet. This includes not eating sugary snacks often, as well as constant snacking through the day.
- Hygiene -Brushing 2 times a day for 2 minutes each time. Begin flossing at a young age to establish the good habit. Around age 5 the back teeth begin to move closer together, trapping bacteria and food between the teeth. This is when X-rays become necessary as well as flossing.
- Consistency -Consistency is the best for every child. When they learn a routine at a young age is it easier for them to come to expect it. Which makes it easier for you as well. Lead by example -Often times parents brush their own teeth much earlier or later than their children’s. Letting your child see you brush your own teeth will help reinforce the habit. Children like to imitate their parents.
- Regular Check ups -Keeping your 6 month check up is important. Their dental hygienist/dentist will make sure they are staying healthy and if any small areas are beginning to show signs of cavitation, they can point it out to you and give you extra care tips to hopefully prevent it from turning into a cavity that is big enough to be treated.
- Be proactive -When a cavity is found, it is important to not delay treatment. Catching it early will prevent more serious treatment like a crown or root canal. Not only are these procedures more involved, missing more time from school and you from work, but they are also more expensive. Avoiding them all together makes things easier for both you and your child.
Remember, prevention is key. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to comment. If you have specific concerns about dental treatments for your child’s teeth, you can call my office Rose Tree Kids at 610-892-3825. ￼