Preventative Dentistry: How to Protect Your Child’s Smile

Father and son looking at their teeth in a mirror

As soon as a child’s first tooth erupts, usually between 6 months and 12 months of age, it’s the perfect time for parents to bring their child to see a dentist. Even at such a young age, children’s teeth are susceptible to decay, so oral health should be taken very seriously. Whilst tooth decay can be treated, we strongly believe that preventative dentistry should be an integral part of a child’s lifestyle in order to protect their oral and overall health, and to prevent the need for emergency appointments when a child experiences pain.

Bringing children for regular dental check-ups from an early age has many benefits. As well as helping kids get used to the experience of visiting a dentist and the dental practice environment, regular check-ups also help to prevent small problems from becoming big problems.

Developing good oral health habits

Whilst it’s important for children to visit the dentist, the preventative care starts at home. To help prevent cavities and other problems that are caused by tooth decay, it’s vital that children learn excellent oral health habits from a very early age.

It’s a very worrying statistic that around 40% of children develop cavities by the time they start school, due in part to consuming sugary snacks and drinks, but also as a result of poor oral hygiene habits. The mouth is a breeding ground for multiple bacteria, and when we consume sugar, it reacts with bacteria in our mouth to produce acid on our teeth, wearing away at the enamel over time. Once this protective layer is worn away, teeth are much more susceptible to decay. So what can parents do to protect their child’s smile?

Several simple oral health care techniques, repeated each day, play a very important part in making sure children maintain good oral health and ward off tooth decay, for example:

  • Brushing teeth at least twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste. The good news is toothpastes can be purchased in a range of more child friendly flavours to make for a more pleasant experience.
  • Flossing regularly to help get rid of plaque and food debris between the teeth and around the gums
  • Limiting intake of sugary foods and drinks

By getting children used to taking care of their teeth every day, it’s much less likely that major dental problems will develop. That being said, even when following these important preventive dental care techniques every day, it’s still important to see a dentist regularly, and although toothbrushes and floss are excellent for brushing away bacteria and bits of food that get left behind, there are parts of the teeth that are difficult to reach with a toothbrush, so bacteria can stay hidden.

The good news is, there are preventative dentistry measures to help protect children from tooth decay, keeping their smile intact.

Fluoride Varnish

Whilst fluoride toothpaste certainly helps to make the teeth stronger and prevent acid from sugary foods and drinks wearing away at the teeth’s enamel, fluoride varnish can provide an extra layer of protection. At Marsh House, in cases where children suffer from dental decay, despite daily efforts from the child and their parents or carers, our dental professionals can apply a fluoride varnish directly to the teeth.

Once applied, fluoride varnish leads to a heavy remineralisation of the teeth’s outer shell (enamel). As a result, acid attacks on the teeth will only cause fluoride ions to penetrate more deeply into the tooth structure, leaving them strong and preventing tooth decay.

Fissure Sealant

In most cases, dental decay in children develops on your child’s molars. When they erupt, usually when a child is around the age of 6, the chewing surface is not yet fully mineralised, making it more susceptible to decay. In addition to not yet having a hard enamel surface, molars also feature a range of fissures and grooves to help with chewing. Unfortunately, these fissures are very narrow and difficult to reach with a toothbrush, so bacteria can become trapped and attack the teeth, leading to cavities.

To prevent tooth decay problems in molars, we can apply a fissure sealant that covers the fissures, providing a smooth surface that prevents bacteria from getting trapped inside. Once effectively sealed, teeth are around 80% less likely to get cavities.

Mouthguards for Sport

It’s not only bacteria that can attach children’s smiles. When kids take part in sporting activities, they can be susceptible to damage. All kinds of sports can lead to serious damage to teeth, for example, contact sports like football, rugby and boxing, as well as sports that use hard balls and bats, like cricket and hockey.

Custom made mouthguards can be worn over the teeth, protecting them and reducing impact in the case of any contact whilst playing sport.

Booking a Preventative Dentistry Appointment

To arrange an appointment for your child at Kids Dental at Marsh House, you can book here or call 020 8646 6300. As a children-only dental unit, we are here to make your children feel comfortable about visiting the dentist – we believe that happy dental visits help to develop great habits for long term oral health.