Dental reminds Yokota importance of oral health

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- February is National Children's Dental Health Month, but dental health should be our focus year round. It is an appalling statistic that dental decay is the most common chronic infectious disease in children. However, with proper practices at home and regular check ups, cavities are completely preventable.

Preventive dentistry is the best way to keep your child's smile healthy and avoid problems associated with cavities and gingivitis. Teaching your child proper oral hygiene techniques, limiting sugary snacks and ensuring regular check ups with your dentist will help keep your child in optimum oral health.

Keeping the plaque off your kiddo's teeth is the first step. Plaque is the sticky film that adheres to everyone's teeth and is composed of bacteria. It is necessary to remove this biofilm daily. Proper oral hygiene techniques involve brushing twice a day and flossing once a day. Parents should also think about monitoring a child's brushing technique up to about the age of seven. Brushing should be accomplished for at least two minutes using circular motions and soft strokes; it is helpful to angle the toothbrush at 45 degrees towards the gum line. Floss is needed to clean in between the teeth because toothbrush bristles cannot reach this area.

A parent can start integrating flossing into a child's routine around age seven. The proper flossing technique involves wrapping the floss in a "c" shape around the tooth and giving a couple scrapes on the side of each tooth to remove the plaque. Think of it as giving the tooth a hug. Any plaque that is not removed will feed on the carbohydrates in our food and cause potential problems.

A child's diet also contributes to their oral health, not to mention their overall health. Frequent snacking of sugary foods or sipping on sugary drinks will put a child at greater risk for decay. Each time a carbohydrate or sugar comes in contact with the teeth, the plaque produces an acid by product that causes damage to the tooth structure. The greater the frequency of ingestion of sugary snacks the more acid attacks that will occur on the teeth, which will eventually break down the tooth structure, causing a cavity.

Therefore, it is necessary to limit the amount of sugary foods and drinks that are being consumed. Two to three snacks per day should be the limit and preferably during meal times. Healthy snacks, such as fruits, vegetables and yogurt, will give children something sweet to eat while also being good for them. But, even with taking all of the correct steps to prevent this childhood disease, regular check ups also play a key role in prevention and early detection.

Children should be seen yearly by a dentist to screen for any decay or other problems. Early detection is key to arrest a cavity in the early stages, or better yet, prevent any decay from forming at all. In addition, this provides an opportunity for children to receive professional fluoride treatments. Fluoride is proven to strengthen teeth and prevent cavities from forming. It is recommended that parents check their children's teeth for brown spots and consult a dentist if a problem is suspected.

In order to help prevent your child from experiencing dental disease, such as cavities, it is important to practice good home care and see your dentist regularly. Make sure your child learns the proper techniques of brushing and flossing early. Additionally, ensure your child is limiting sugary snacks and eating a balanced diet. Getting to the dentist at least yearly will allow for preventive education as well as early detection.

Prevention is key!