Every child deserves to have a cavity-free future. To help children develop good oral care habits that will last a lifetime and protect against dental caries, there are two basic rules we need to follow.
Firstly, we will need to involve a child's parents or guardians in toothbrushing routines and let them know it is necessary to supervise their children's brushing until they are able to effectively perform their own brushing. You can also recommend a kids brush suitable for the child's age, which may be a manual brush. Parents should check not only if their child is actually brushing their teeth twice a day, but also supervise technique and ensure no areas are missed.
Secondly, we need to make sure that parents understand that the use of fluoridated toothpaste helps to prevent cavities. Using a fluoride toothpaste helps to prevent demineralization and also promotes remineralization. For children at increased risk for caries, we can explain that higher-level fluoride toothpastes can be prescribed, and works in a similar manner to provide increased protection against cavities. This therefore can help children at increased risk towards a cavity-free life! Of course, dietary advice should also be provided to parents, including the need to reduce sugar intake and minimize snacking.
When deciding what fluoride products to recommend for your patients, you should use an age-appropriate caries risk assessment together with the age of the child to determine the fluoride regimen and concentration indicated and the need for over-the-counter toothpastes (such as Colgate's Maximum Cavity Protection 3+ Kids toothpastes), varnishes or high-level fluoride toothpaste.
The American Dental Association and the American Academy of Paediatric Dentistry as well as other dental organizations internationally have guidelines on the use of over the counter and high-level fluoride products. These organizations reviewed the benefits of fluoride for children at different risk levels for caries - low, moderate and high-risk. For example, those who are at higher risk were children who wear fixed orthodontic appliances, have diets high in sugar, poor oral care habits or have other factors that increase their risk for caries. For patients at higher risk of caries, you should consider options to deliver higher concentrations of fluoride, such as:
- Colgate PreviDent 5000 Booster Plus - to be used once daily instead of one of the daily brushings with over-the-counter toothpaste, and still also brushing once-daily with regular toothpaste
- Elmex gel with high-concentration amine fluoride - to be used once weekly for added protection, in addition to regular twice-daily brushing with Elmex toothpaste available over-the-counter
- Colgate PreviDent varnish (Colgate Duraphat varnish) - to be applied professionally in the dental office at a frequency of every 3 or 6 months for individuals at elevated risk for caries.
There are several ways of supporting parents in creating a routine for home oral care that can help their children towards a cavity-free future:
- Talk to parents and kids to explain the child's risk for caries and what this means
- Explain to parents the importance of using fluoride toothpaste and, in the case of children at increased caries risk, the importance of incorporating high-level fluoride products for home care and in-office treatment to help ensure healthy teeth for the future
- Emphasize the role of parents in educating their children and providing hands-on guidance on twice-daily thorough toothbrushing with fluoride
- Provide tailored dietary advice to both child and parent such as having a diet that is low in sugar and acidic foods and beverages, as well as avoiding frequent snacking
By providing the above guidance to parents, you can help them to help their children in developing good habits for a cavity-free life.