By Dr. Shelia Shah

Math and reading aren’t the only important skills which can affect your child for a lifetime. A healthy smile gives your child confidence and added social acceptance, increasing their chance for a successful future.

Parents sometimes fail to recognize the value of starting dental care at an early age. Perhaps it’s because they reason these are “only baby teeth,” and think that because those teeth will be lost in the future, they aren’t as important as “permanent teeth.” However, just as preparing a solid foundation for a house is essential to building a strong home, your child’s gums, baby teeth, and other oral structures are the preparation blocks for a strong and healthy maturing smile.

As kids head to school to learn essential skills that will help them flourish as they grow, don’t overlook the value of teaching children proper oral care at home. It’s an investment in your child that will yield lifelong dividends. You can start by setting a good example; taking care of your own teeth sends the message that dental health is something to be valued. Anything that makes taking care of teeth fun, like brushing along with your child, or letting them choose their own toothbrush, also encourages proper oral care.

Did you know that frequent snacking can be a big enemy to your child’s smile? The sugars and starches found in many foods and snacks, like cookies, candies, dried fruit, soft drinks, pretzels and potato chips, combine with plaque on teeth to create acids. These acids attack the tooth enamel and may lead to cavities. A “plaque attack” can last up to 20 minutes after a meal or snack has been finished. Even a little nibble can create plaque acids. So it’s best to limit snacking between meals, whenever possible.

To help children protect their teeth and reduce the risk of cavities, teach them to follow these simple steps:

• Brush twice a day with an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste.
• Floss daily to remove plaque between the teeth and under the gum line – before it can harden into tartar, which can only be removed with a professional cleaning.
• Eat a well-balanced diet that limits starchy or sugary foods, which produce plaque acids that cause tooth decay.
• Schedule regular checkups with your dentist.

If your child has any specific problems, such as staining of the teeth, crowding or abnormal tooth development, then seeing a dentist is vital. You should also see a dentist if your child had any persistent habits, such as thumb sucking, using a pacifier as a toddler, or sleeping with a cup or bottle, since those increase your child’s risk for having developed cavities. Additional concerns, such as grinding teeth at night (bruxism), sealants, and the importance of fluoride should all be discussed with a trained dental professional.

If you have questions or concerns about your child’s oral health, or to schedule a FREE back-to-school smile evaluation for your child with Dr. Sheila Shah, contact MaconSmiles, located in Macon, GA. Dr. Shah is a 1995 graduate of The Dental College at Augusta University. She is committed to staying on the cutting edge of advancements in the field of dentistry for patients of all ages.



Published by Guest Columnist

The opinions and views expressed by guest columnists and contributors are their own and do not reflect the views of Macon Community News, its affiliates or other contributors.