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Growing up, many of us had the experience of visiting the dentist when something hurt or when we had a “cavity” or hole in one or several of our teeth.  We were told to stop eating sweets, brush twice a day and things would get better. Later in the year we would be back in the dental chair with more cavities to be filled.

Today, dentistry’s goal is to break the cycle of dental disease, move beyond the historic model of “drill and fill” and to treat caries, the disease that causes cavities, as a disease that can be prevented. The keys to success for you and your children are easier than you may think.

Get started early. Take your child to the dentist as their first tooth erupts or by their first birthday. This is a great time for your child to get acquainted with the dentist, get some good tips on good nutrition and home care, and discuss future visits. Starting early gets your child on a path to good oral health throughout their lives.

Visit the dentist regularly. Continuous care enables your child’s dentist to reinforce good habits, focus on preventing dental disease, spot problems early and answer any questions you may have concerning your child’s oral health. Remember, your child’s primary, or baby teeth are extremely important. They help your child eat, speak, establish self confidence in school and guide the permanent teeth into a good position.

Assessing your child’s risk for cavities. A child that does not brush well, does not drink fluoridated water and has had cavities in the past may be at greater risk for future dental problems such as tooth decay. Children at greater risk should visit the dentist more frequently and take advantage of additional preventive strategies that your dentist will want to discuss with you.  Your dentist may also provide you with additional home care tips. If your child does have a cavity, your dentist can catch it early before it becomes serious.

Prevention instead of “drilling and filling.” Depending on your child’s level of risk for dental disease, your dentist will usually recommend a number of excellent preventive strategies designed to keep your child cavity free.  In addition to good nutrition, brushing and flossing, your dentist will usually recommend professionally applied fluoride.  Fluoride applied to your child’s teeth is safe and effective in keeping the teeth strong and cavity free.  Sealants are also usually applied in the deep grooves of the biting surfaces of the teeth that are often hard to brush. Sealants keep bacteria-filled plaque out of those deep grooves, decreasing the chance of cavities. Preventive visits are more pleasant and far less costly than visits for extensive dental treatment.

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