As your little one grows, it becomes increasingly important to protect his or her oral health. The food of a small baby may only consist of breast milk, which has been shown to contain high amounts of protective chemicals. In addition, breast milk does not produce large amounts of acid in your child's mouth. Still, there are some study results that suggest that breastfeeding may be associated with early childhood caries. Once your child is weaned and eating regular table food, imagine how the mixed diet can affect his or her oral health. Here are two tips to help you protect the health of your child's teeth and gums:
Be sure to brush and floss your child's teeth before bedtime.
At night, tooth decay can be accelerated because of a reduction in saliva flow. Saliva helps wash away damaging plaque and bacteria. In addition, saliva helps combat the damaging effects of acid by neutralizing it. The average pH of a child's saliva is 7.5, which is slightly alkaline. The saliva can help neutralize the acid in your child's mouth. A completely neutral pH has a value of 7. Acids have a pH below 7, and alkaline substances have a pH above 7.
The acid in your child's mouth often comes from two sources. The first is food; the second is bacteria. Food and drinks, such as citrus fruits and soda, have a low pH. In addition, acid is released by the bacteria inside your child's mouth. Bacteria digest food through a process called glycolysis that converts the consumed sugar into energy, but acid is left over as a byproduct.
Acid eats away at tooth enamel and dissolves the mineral component of your child's teeth. His or her tooth enamel is 96 percent mineral. The remaining components are protein and water. Brushing at night can clear away plaque, bacteria and food particles that could cause extensive damage in the absence of sufficient amounts of saliva.
Use a fluoride toothpaste.
As soon as your child reaches the age of two and can brush without swallowing the toothpaste, be sure to use a paste that contains fluoride. Fluoride helps re-mineralize teeth that are exposed to acid. It coats the teeth and attracts calcium and phosphate to form a new tooth mineral called calcium fluorapatite, which is actually even harder than the original mineral component of the tooth.
To protect your child's teeth, be sure that he or she brushes regularly with a fluoride toothpaste, especially before bedtime. In addition, talk with a dentist about ways that your child can continually improve his or her oral health. If your child has not had a dental appointment within the last six months, schedule an appointment with a pediatric dentist, like Myriam Cerezo DMD, today.