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99th Dental Squadron explains early prevention

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- After speaking with many Airmen during Annual exams, dental technicians observed some families are unfamiliar with children's dental health. Early prevention is the key, and it starts with the parents. We want the Nellis populace to be ready to help keep their children cavity free.

The 99th Dental Squadron educates expectant mothers at each dental appointment on oral health, as well as their newborn's teeth and gum tissue health. During weekly prenatal orientations, dental personnel educate expectant parents about dental caries, gingivitis and prevention of baby bottle tooth decay.

Baby bottle tooth decay is a common childhood disease. It is usually found after it is too late for prevention and most often occurs in the upper front teeth, but other teeth may also be affected.

Unfortunately in some cases, infants and toddlers experience decay so severe that their teeth cannot be repaired and need to be removed. The American Society of Pediatric Dentistry states that frequent consumption of liquids, such as juice, milk, formula, and soda can increase the risk of tooth decay due to prolonged contact between sugars in the liquid and bacteria on the tooth. Frequent bottle feeding at night, as well as extended and repetitive use of no-spill training cups is associated with early childhood decay. Children experiencing cavities as infants or toddlers have a much greater risk of subsequent cavities on their adult teeth.

Physicians and dentists recommend that babies' and toddlers' teeth and gums be cleaned after every feeding, starting from when their teeth start erupting. This will remove plaque and bits of food that can harm erupting teeth. When your child's teeth begin to erupt, brush them gently with a child's size toothbrush and water. Brush your child's teeth until he or she is at least 6 years old.

Encourage children to drink from a cup by their first birthday and discourage frequent or prolonged use of a training cup. These preventive steps should be taken at the earliest time possible. Starting infants off with good oral care can help protect their teeth for decades to come.

For more information on baby bottle tooth decay prevention, can contact the Preventive Dentistry section at the Dental Clinic and ask for Tech. Sgt. Breeanna Thompson or Staff Sgt. Sagan Barber at 653-2600.

Editor's note: Tech. Sgt. Breeanna Thompson contributed to the writing of this commentary.