Thursday, February 22, 2007

How to Identify and Combat Serious Dental Problems

To help fight an epidemic of cavities and oral disease among the state's young children, the
California Dental Hygienists' Association (CDHA) is offering information
about how to effectively spot and prevent tooth decay, which plagues
millions of California schoolchildren.
During February's National Children's Oral Health Month, as well as
throughout the entire year, California dental hygienists play a vital role
in raising awareness about a serious and often misunderstood problem in
oral health. The profession also devotes significant volunteer time to
helping protect the state's children from a preventable disease.
"Dental caries -- also known as cavities -- is the most common
childhood disease and can lead to a wide range of other health and other
problems," said Susan McLearan, president of CDHA. "Yet, there are some
very simple ways we as a society can better prevent and attack this
A Serious Problem
The first step, according to CDHA, is to understand the serious nature
of the disease and then take steps to eliminate the risk factors that can
lead to cavities, especially in small children.
-- Parents should realize how important baby teeth are to speech,
nutrition and self esteem
-- Early childhood caries is a very serious form of cavities that can
destroy the teeth of preschool children and toddlers
-- The first signs of caries are white chalky or brown spots on the teeth,
usually starting at the gum line
-- This problem may be overlooked by parents until the pain becomes so
severe and the teeth so decayed that the only options for these kids is
to have their teeth taken out

Prevention Tips
Prevention must begin early. CDHA recommends that a child's first
dental evaluation should be within six months after the first primary tooth
appears or by the time a child is one year old.
Additionally, parents should:
-- Try to eliminate starchy and sugary foods
-- Reduce or avoid nighttime bottle-feeding for infants. Putting a child
to bed with a bottle or the prolonged use of a "sippy" cup can cause
-- Prevent contact with a parent or care taker with untreated caries,
which can easily spread to a child through the sharing of a spoon, cup,
-- Ensure that fluoride varnish or sealants are given to children who have
already had one or more cavities because they are considered a high
risk for developing more
-- Promote brushing of teeth on a regular basis. When a tooth first
appears or erupts, it should be wiped gently with a damp cloth or soft
brush; beginning around ages two or three, children can use fluoride
toothpaste with a brush
-- Seek the advice of a dental hygienist, who can work with parents to
make recommendations on how to avoid this serious disease
-- Use products containing xylitol, a natural sugar substitute that helps
fight bacteria that causes tooth decay
"California dental hygienists are unsung heroes in the fight against
cavities," said CDHA's McLearan, who noted that her members are a wealth of
information for the public and generously volunteer their time to offer
nutritional counseling, oral health education in the schools, fluoride
treatments, cleanings and student dental screenings.
"For California dental hygienists, protecting our children from oral
disease is a 12-month effort," said McLearan. "This month is just a good
time to emphasize the problem and solutions to parents about better
protecting their children."
The California Dental Hygienists' Association (CDHA) is the
authoritative voice of the state's dental hygiene profession. While
registered dental hygienists have worked in the state for nearly a century,
CDHA was established 20 years ago when two regional associations merged to
form a unified professional group. CDHA represents thousands of dental
hygienists throughout the state and is dedicated to expanding opportunities
for the profession and access to care for all Californians.

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