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Good dental care begins at birth

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Development goals to encourage dental health

By Daniel Crum

Because we want our children to have beautiful healthy smiles for a lifetime, start early to ensure their future dental health. The following tips and guidelines will put your children on the path to a lifetime of healthy habits.

Beginning immediately after birth, clean baby’s gums with a wet washcloth or gauze square after meals. Begin daily brushing with a small, soft-bristled toothbrush after the first tooth erupts. Fluoride toothpaste should not be used until children can spit on their own, at about age 2. At this point a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste can be added to the toothbrush. Fluoride mouthwashes are not recommended for children under 6.

Fluoride is your best defense against dental cavities. It helps repair the enamel on the teeth and prevent decay. If you use bottled water for drinking and cooking or your community water is not fluoridated, tell your doctor or dentist. They may prescribe a fluoride supplement for your child.

To maintain healthy teeth and prevent cavities, children should not be put to bed with a bottle of milk or juice; these liquids pool in the mouth and produce acid throughout the night, which can lead to tooth decay. For this reason, do not let a toddler walk around with a bottle unless it is filled with plain water. A good goal is to have your child drinking from a cup by their first birthday. So that children do not develop crooked, crowded teeth or problems with their bite, try to discourage thumb sucking after age 4 and try to wean from the pacifier by age 2.

Calcium in the diet also plays a big role in dental health. Calcium is a mineral that helps to build strong bones and teeth. It is found in low-fat milk and dairy products. Even before baby teeth and adult teeth come in they need calcium to develop fully. Calcium keeps the gums and jawbone strong and healthy, which holds your teeth in place.

To ensure a healthy smile at any age, remember the following:

•Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste

•Floss between teeth daily

•Eat a balanced diet and limit between-meal snacks

•Visit your dentist regularly

For more information about dental health, contact the LaRue County Health Department at 358-3844.