Dr. Tyler Torres on children's dental health
The most recent community health needs assessment conducted by Intermountain Dixie Regional Medical Center identified dental health as an area of concern in southern Utah.
“According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, total health and wellness are inextricably linked to oral health,” said Dr. Tyler Torres, a pediatric dentist in St. George. “Oral disease impacts physical, psychological, social, and economic health and well-being.”
Poor oral health can result in pain, diminished function, and reduced quality of life in both adults and children. The best time to establish good oral hygiene habits is during childhood. Torres recently answered questions about how caring adults can have a positive impact on a child’s oral and overall health.
What are some good basic oral health guidelines for brushing and flossing?
“The American Dental Association recommends brushing morning and night for two minutes and flossing daily,” said Torres. “It is very important to brush before bedtime so that no food remains on the teeth during sleep.” This helps prevent cavities.
What can parents do to promote healthy dental habits in children?
“I usually recommend parents help their children brush daily,” Torres said. “This can be a struggle at times, but children need to learn that brushing is important. With consistent follow through, children will develop good brushing and flossing habits.”
Why is it important to consistently brush and care for baby teeth?
“Baby teeth serve a variety of purposes for a child,” Torres said. “Baby teeth are used for eating and chewing, speaking, smiling, development of the jaws, and holding space for the permanent teeth. Many baby teeth do not fall out until 11-12 years of age. Dental cavities in baby teeth can lead to pain, missed school, extra expenses, and possible life-threatening conditions.”
At what age should children first visit a dentist?
“The American Academy of pediatric dentistry recommends a child first see a dentist soon after their first tooth erupts and no later than 12 months of age,” said Torres.
Why is it important for children and adults to have regular dental checkups?
“Having regular dental checkups allows children [and adults] to become comfortable in a dental setting,” Torres said. “It will also help build a trusting relationship with their dentist. Regular checkups also allow the dentist to help educate adults, parents and children on proper oral care habits and help prevent future dental issues.”
What are your thoughts on the importance of fluoride for good oral health?
“Fluoride helps strengthen the enamel of teeth and makes them more resistant to cavities,” Torres said. “I recommend that both children and adults use a fluoridated toothpaste. Infants, however, should have just a smear of toothpaste on the bristles of their toothbrush.”
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Torres suggested that children that are at high risk for dental caries could also benefit from properly prescribed fluoride supplements. Most areas of southern Utah do not have adequate amounts of fluoride in the water and certain areas have an excess. Consult with a dentist to learn more.
It is never too late to begin better oral hygiene. Establishing good oral health habits in children will help them live the healthiest lives possible. A lifetime of healthy smiles is definitely worth brushing for.
This LiVe Well column represents collaboration between healthcare professionals from the medical staffs of our not-for-profit Intermountain Healthcare hospitals and The Spectrum & Daily News.
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