February celebrates National Children’s Dental Health. 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of water fluoridation!
What’s the buzz around fluoride?
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral found in bones and teeth – it’s usually found in soil, water, plants and rocks. However, it is also found in low concentration in our chicken, rice and fish! Research supports the statement that fluoride isn’t harmful to ingest in low dosages. However, if an individual does ingest too much of it, they are at risk for dental fluorosis.
Dental fluorosis is a cosmetic issue that causes streaks, spots or pits to develop on the surfaces of the teeth. It won’t have a negative impact on your child’s dental health, although the streaks and spots are permanent.
Keep in mind that in order for dental fluorosis to develop, an individual has to ingest copious amounts of fluoride. To give an estimate, a child would have to drink a full pitcher of tea made of 100 tea bags daily to be at risk for dental fluorosis – it would really have to be potent for someone to be at risk. Other than that, fluoride is the ultimate cavity fighter and helps rebuild and strengthen tooth enamel.
National Children’s Dental Health month celebrates one of the most monumental public health achievements in the 20th century. Fluoride has transformed the dental health of both children and adults. However, not every state has fluoride in their water. Despite the naturally-occurring compound being harmless and posing no health threats, it must be decided by each individual city.
Common issues children deal with in terms of dental health are:
- Early Gum Disease
- Sensitive Teeth
- Tooth Decay
- Tooth Misalignment
Early Gum disease (also known as Periodontal Disease) is a severe bacterial infection that affects the structures of the teeth and destroys gums. It is usually caused by plaque build up within the gums. The plaque, if not removed, hardens and sticks to the gums like tar – and plaque builds up due to poor dental hygiene.
Factors that contribute to early gum disease:
- Genetic predisposition
- Food particles stuck in gums (poor oral hygiene)
- Mouth breathing
- Poor diet
- Smoking and tobacco
- Hormonal changes
- Prolonged clenching and grinding (bruxism)
- Medications that cause overgrowth of the gums
Sensitive teeth are exactly what it sounds like – teeth that feel temporary discomfort or pain whenever affected.
Common causes of sensitive teeth are:
- New teeth
- Minor teeth damage
- Sinus issues
Care for Sensitive Teeth
Dentists usually recommend using toothpaste made for sensitive teeth or unflavored toothpaste for children. In addition to that, softer toothbrushes are a must. Extra soft bristles are ideal for children since their oral cavities are still developing.
Tooth decay is the breakdown of tooth enamel. Tooth enamel is the hard outer surface of the teeth.
Causes of Tooth Decay
Tooth decay is usually caused by the combination of bacteria, food, certain acids, and saliva in the mouth. Specifically, foods high in sugars and carbohydrates increase the risk of tooth decay. The acids from bacteria and foods eventually chip away at tooth enamel if you don’t treat tooth decay or change your diet and oral hygiene.
A couple of things you can do in order to prevent tooth decay with your child or children:
- Consistent oral hygiene with a fluoride toothpaste, brushing the teeth, gums and tongue twice a day.
- Ensure that your child has a well-balanced diet, limiting things high in sugar in carbohydrates like cake, cookies, and chips.
- Avoid transferring saliva from your mouth to your child’s. For instance, don’t share utensils and don’t clean their pacifier with your saliva.
- Schedule routine dental check ups and keep track of your child’s oral health.
Crooked teeth, or malocclusion of the teeth, just means teeth that aren’t aligned. Misaligned teeth also encompasses overbites, under bites, and any similar structures.
A big reason why some children and adults deal with crooked teeth is because their mouths are simply too small for their teeth so their teeth develop around each other in order to fit within a person’s mouth. Crooked teeth can affect a number of daily habits and cause major discomfort. Activities like chewing/eating, teeth cleaning/oral hygiene, and speaking (affects speed impediments etc.).
The great thing about most of these issues is that there exists preventative care that you can try. With consistent care these issues most likely will improve over time.
Fluoridation is the key to assisting the public with dental health. Happy National Children’s Dental Health Month!