The oral cavity is the natural inhabitant of millions of bacteria. These bacteria compose the dental plaque. The dental plaque, when in access, could cause dental disease such as gingivitis and caries. For that reason, besides everyday’s brushing it is very important for both adults and children to get a professional dental cleaning every 6 months.
The dental cleaning consists of two parts:
Dental caries is the most severe chronic disease on children (more severe than asthma).
It is caused from the acids that dental bacteria produce. After sugar consumption, the oral bacteria produce acids that penetrate the enamel (hard surface of the tooth) and create cavities (holes). That is the dental decay-caries. In order to prevent dental caries and strengthen the childrens teeth, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation is a dental visit with fluoride application every six months (twice a year). What is fluoride though and how does it work?
Fluoride is an ion like iron. Many fruits and vegetables contain it and there is also some in the drinkable water. Its most important mechanism consists of replacing the calcium in the enamel and strengthen it. Fluoride has the ability to be absorbed by the enamel and change its crystals into a stronger form. In addition to that fluoride creates a very powerful bond with enamel’s calcium that repairs all the damage that is caused by the oral bacteria, especially after sugar intake. There is also an antimicrobial mechanism that neutralizes some of the most aggressive oral bacteria.
The fluoride treatment consists of the application from the dentist of special fluoride gels every six months. With multiple fluoride treatments, the teeth become “harder” on their surface and they become immune to dental decay throughout the patient’s life. It is a very easy and uncomplicated procedure. In older children the gel is placed in special trays on the teeth surface whereas n younger children the dentist applies a fluoride varnish on the dental surface with a cotton tub. Both the gel and the varnish have nice fruity tastes the young patient can choose from. The whole procedure does not last more than two minutes. After fluoride treatment it is recommended to the parents for the young patient not to eat or drink something for 30 minutes, so the fluoride application will have its maximum effect.
What is the appropriate age for a child to start fluoride treatments and how often should be repeated?
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) and the European Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (EAPD) both recommend for children to start fluoride treatment as soon as their first teeth erupt. Definitely a child should start a decay-prevention program (cleaning and fluoride treatment) after the age of 3, when the eruption of the primary dentition is completed. The prevention program should be repeated every 6 months for maximum results. The dentist may suggest fluoride treatment every 3 months in dental caries high risk patients.
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