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Ask Dr. Santiago: February is Children’s Dental Health Month

Dr. Robin Santiago

Ask Dr. Santiago! a monthly look at trends in dentistry…


February is Children’s Dental Health Month
With Children’s Dental Health month almost upon us, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t, first and foremost, encourage all readers to make sure your children are seeing the dentist twice a year (or more in some cases).  When you and your children visit my practice, we work together to lay the foundation for a lifetime of healthy smiles.  In addition to professional cleanings, I also closely monitor your child’s oral development.  If your child needs early orthodontic care or special attention because of injury or cavities, we can address those issues before problems escalate.

Dental health is about more than what goes on in the dentist’s office.  Here are a couple of other points to keep in mind to protect your child’s teeth in 2012 and beyond.

Fight cavities with knowledge!
Many of us recall, from our own childhood days, that sugary treats lead to cavities.  But, it helps if we know a little more about how that process really occurs.  Bacteria, which is always present in our mouths, turn sugars into acid.  This acid is what is responsible for dissolving our teeth. This effect lasts for about a two-hour period after you eat a sugary snack.  Acidic foods like citrus fruits also contribute to tooth decay, and some foods and drinks, such as soda and sports drinks, introduce both sugar and acid to the mouth.  Diet sodas may eliminate the sugar, but they keep the acidity!  If your child is having sticky, sugary snacks between meals, then the environment in his or her mouth is one that perpetually facilitates tooth decay.

Outside of encouraging a healthy diet, how else can we combat childhood tooth decay?  Establishing good home-care habits is a great start.  Motivate your child to brush twice a day and to floss once.  You may find that an electric toothbrush helps to encourage longer brushing sessions.

Flossing can be challenging, especially for little fingers or for children with braces, but a Waterpik® offers the same benefits as floss, and can really be a boon in cleaning hard-to-reach places between teeth and around orthodontic  brackets.
Finally, fluoride toothpaste helps to replace minerals in your child’s teeth, reestablishing their natural barrier against decay.  When I see a child who is particularly prone to tooth decay, I prescribe a medicated mouth rinse and a fluoride gel program to promote stronger teeth.

Protect precious smiles with mouthguards!
The number of teeth injured or lost due to sports is staggering – well into the millions!  Amazingly, only a few sports require mouthguards, which can prevent most of the dental injuries I see in children’s, sports-related accidents.  Children playing team sports such as basketball, volleyball, and soccer need to protect their teeth with a mouthguard. Inexpensive “boil-and-bite” mouthguards offer nowhere near the protection of a dentist-fabricated, customized mouthguard.  Take a hint from many of the superstar athletes your child watches on TV, like LeBron James and Dirk Nowitski, and protect your child’s teeth with a professionally-fitted mouthguard – even if there isn’t a mandatory rule in your child’s league.
Dr. Robin Santiago was recently named a Top Dentist 2011 by Hartford Magazine. She and the dental team at Beautiful Smiles love to see smile dreams come true for people of all ages. Contact Dr. Santiago and her team with your dental questions via email at, and “like” her Facebook page – Beautiful Smiles by Robin Santiago, DMD. You can set up an appointment, including a complimentary smile evaluation, by calling 860-232-4511.    



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