2/25/2013 6:22:00 PM February is Children's Dental Month
Dr. Aleta Cheek, CBHA dentist, consults with a young patient. Submitted photo.
Dr. Aleta Cheek joined the CBHA dental staff in 1999. She enjoys working with patients of all ages but has a special fondness for working with children. "If we can help children develop good dental habits at an early age, they will be on their way to a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums," she said. The American Dental Association warns against the dangers of "Baby Bottle Tooth Decay." Dr. Cheek urges parents to resist putting a baby to bed with either a bottle of juice or milk. "When your baby's teeth are constantly exposed to sugary liquids, this can start to cause cavities," she said. Instead of liquids like milk, formula, juice or soft drinks, babies should be fed a bottle of cool water at bedtime. "After each feeding, wipe the baby's gums and teeth, as they erupt, with a clean damp washcloth or piece of gauze," she said. In addition, babies should not be given a pacifier dipped in any sweet liquid. Parents should begin brushing their children's teeth when the first tooth appears. They can also clean and massage gums that remain toothless. "We like parents to begin regular dental visits by the time a child has their first birthday," Cheek said. The application of fluoride varnish, at dental check-ups, can help to strengthen baby's teeth and prevent cavities from starting. "If you think your child has a dental problem, they should see a dentist as soon as possible," she said. Regular dental check-ups, cleanings, x-rays and fluoride treatments should continue throughout their childhood years and on through life. Cheek also recommends the use of sealants on a child's molars. "Sealants are painted on as a liquid and quickly dry and harden to form a protective shield over the tooth," she said. "Molars are particularly in need of reinforcement because they have small, difficult to reach pits where food and germs tend to get stuck." Sealants can offer protection for teeth with deep pits; it is a good idea to have them checked during regular office visits to make sure they're not worn or chipped. Touch-up sealant can be applied, if needed. The American Dental Association recommends children eat a variety of foods from the five major food groups: fruits, vegetables, bread, cereals and other grain products, milk, cheese and yogurt; and meat, poultry, fish and alternates, such as dry beans, peas, eggs and nuts. The more often a child snacks, the greater the opportunity for tooth decay. Limiting snacks to once between meals, is helpful. Healthy snacks include cheese, raw vegetables, nuts, unsweetened yogurt and sugarless gum and candy. Healthy teeth in growing children is the goal to aim for and a well-balanced diet is certainly a part of that.