Parents are at the root of kids´ oral health

When the scuba-diving dentist captured Nemo and imprisoned the lovable clownfish in the office aquarium, children across the nation found a new reason to fear dentists. “We are not the bad guy,” Dr. Cissy Furusho said. “We’re here to help them brush their

For this Northwest Side pediatric dentist, however, parents are the key to a child’s smiles and overall quality of life. "It’s really about educating the parents to help the kids," she said. A report in the January issue of the International Journal of Paediatric Dentistry supports Furusho’s statement.

Although the study looked only at mothers, it found that the oral health of young children, age 3 and younger, improves when their mothers practice good oral hygiene. Like mother, like child, as moms who brush their teeth regularly have children with healthy mouths. Many children end up with cavities sooner than they should because their parents lack the proper dental education to make sure their kids are brushing properly and seeing the dentist on a regular basis. "It’s not necessarily their fault," Furusho said. "Maybe that’s how they were raisedûthey just don’t know.

They need to be educated on what’s good, proper nutrition and oral health care." A parent’s first responsibility should be to create a "dental home," Furusho added.

A child’s first tooth usually develops at 6 months, and by the time the child is 1 year, a dentist should have checked the baby’s teeth and educated the parents about how to properly brush the child’s teeth, maintain good nutrition, and care for emerging teeth.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says tooth decay is one of the most common chronic infectious diseases among U.S. children: .28 percent of children age 2-5 years have already had decay in their baby teeth, .50 percent of children age 11 have had decay and .68 percent of 19 year olds have tooth decay in permanent teeth. But tooth decay is a preventable disease.

"You just need three things to get cavities," Furusho said. "You need teeth. You need bacteria. You need a food source for that bacteriaplaque." Well we’ve got teeth, we all have bacteria, and if we’re eating anything at all, we probably have plaque.

If that plaque is not being cleaned off our teeth on a regular basis, it festers in our mouths and on our teeth. For young children who lack the understanding or dexterity to adequately clean their teeth, tooth decay often develops because parents don’t know to wipe off their children’s teeth with a wet washcloth after breast- or bottlefeeding.

Babies eat constantly, and if it takes them the entire day to finish a bag of Cheerios, or if they fall asleep while nursing, the residual sugars left from these items eat away at their teeth. Parents who take their child’s teeth for granted could end up with a child who is in pain, underweight and toothless.

These consequences can hurt a child’s capacity to eat, speak and be successful in social and educational environments. Hirrah Khatri, 12, a sixth-grader at Lincoln Hall Middle School agrees. She says having clean teeth is important because otherwise your bad breath would make it difficult to "communicate socially." "Brushing your teeth helps you feel good about yourself," Khatri said. "When you brush your teeth in the morning, you start the day in a new way-you feel fresh."

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