February is National Children's Dental Health Month. The American Dental Association states a child's oral healthcare can have an impact on their health as an adult. However, by following some simple steps, oral health care can be drastically improved.
According to Dr. Richard Foreman, a dentist whose office is located in the village of Rouses Point, if children lose their teeth prematurely, usually before age 6, serious problems can result.
"Adult teeth can erupt into the spot and shift and move and it creates orthodontic problems. So, we try to take care of the teeth and keep the child healthy," Foreman explained.
The most obvious way is to brush teeth regularly. However, taking care of gums before teeth have erupted is important as well.
"Begin cleaning the baby's mouth during the first few days after birth," states the ADA. "After every feeding, wipe the baby's gums either with a clean, wet gauze pad or with a washcloth or towel."
Foreman also believes this technique can be used on teeth in young children, or you may use a finger toothbrush and gum massager with baby toothpaste. He does not suggest adult toothpaste, as it may be too strong for them.
"They might like a bubblegum flavor which is a little more mild," he said.
Foreman also suggests parents not let the child bring a bottle to bed unless it has water in it.
"A lot of people put their child down with a bottle and they think milk is okay. Milk has lactose in it, which is milk sugar," Foreman said.
If the milk lays on the child's teeth, it can cause cavities, he added. The same goes for juice.
Although the ADA suggests children should begin seeing a dentist at the age of 1, Foreman said it may be more difficult to work on a child that young, and recommends the age of 3. However, if it is necessary for a child to see a dentist, he suggests a pediatric dentist, who specializes in working with young children.
Children sucking their thumb is also something Foreman says parents should watch out for.
"It can orthodontically move teeth and it can actually move bone if the child continues to do it," Foreman explained.
If a child is sucking their thumb, a special orthodontic pacifier can be substituted, although Foreman said it may need to be special ordered.
If a child does suck their thumb and orthodontic problems ensue, that is when an orthodontist may be necessary for a child.
According to Dr. Mark Thomson, an orthodontist who practices in the city of Plattsburgh, the American Association of Orthodontics suggests children see an orthodontist around the age of 7 to see if problems may be detected at an earlier age.
"There are times when you can [see] somebody early ... and maybe make some recommendations," explained Thomson. "Maybe it means early treatment, maybe not."
For children who end up needing braces, dental hygiene is still of great importance.
"We spend quite a bit of time with patients going through specific hygiene instructions, making sure that they're brushing, making sure that they're flossing, making sure they're doing all the preventative care to maintain oral health with braces on," said Thomson. "We try to stress hygiene both to families and patients involved in treatment."
"There aren't many things that are more upsetting to us in the profession than patients who don't take care of themselves while they're involved in orthodontic treatment," added Thomson.
Thomson said one of the best ways to avoid unnecessary need for orthodontic treatment is for children to wear mouthguards.
"As a parent, you want to make sure your kids are safe," he said. "You want to make sure if they're involved in contact sports or athletics, that they're taking the precautions and wearing appropriate protection."