Richmond, BC – Dental care can be a team effort, with parents and their children working together to help keep a healthy smile on kids faces. Parents may not be aware that children in Richmond have the highest rate of dental cavities in the Lower Mainland, and doctors and dentists are asking families to make sure dental care is a priority.
Parents might be surprised to hear that almost two out of every five kindergarten children in Richmond children have had tooth decay. Tooth decay is one of the most common early childhood diseases, can be painful, and can start as soon as teeth come in.
"It may seem like baby teeth aren't important since they fall out and are replaced, but, lifelong dental health starts with baby teeth," says Dr. Meena Dawar, Medical Health Officer, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH). "Children need healthy baby teeth to sleep, smile and eat properly. Healthy baby teeth are an important part of children's speech development and self-confidence, and play a significant role in the placement of permanent adult teeth."
The Canadian Dental Association recommends that brushing start as soon as the first tooth can be seen. A soft-bristled toothbrush should be used, twice a day on all tooth surfaces. Since fluoride is not added to the water in the lower mainland, it's important that people of all ages use toothpaste that contains fluoride. Fluoride bonds with the surface (enamel) of teeth, making them more resistant to bacteria and decay and helping repair early stages of decay. Fluoride mouthwash is recommended after the age of seven.
Parents can also prevent tooth decay by ensuring kids brush their teeth after nighttime snacking or a bottle. If children eat or drink anything other than water, they need to have their teeth brushed.
A child's first trip to the dentist should occur by age one or within six months of when the first tooth comes in.
"As the professional association for all B.C. dentists, the mandate of the BC Dental Association (BCDA) includes the promotion of oral health for all British Columbians," says BCDA President Dr. Raymon Grewal. "We are very pleased to collaborate with the Ministry of Health and Vancouver Coastal Health to try to reduce the incidence of preventable tooth decay in young children."
Dr. Randy Shew, Chair of BCDA's Childhood Dental Care Education Task Force, agrees.
"As a Richmond dentist, I see a considerable number of cases of preventable dental decay in young children. I applaud Dr. Dawar's commitment to improving children's overall health by helping parents and caregivers understand that healthy baby teeth leads to the development of healthy adult teeth."
The BC Dental Association website lists dentists accepting new patients, including those who see and treat children under four years.
Without treatment, decay can spread deeper into the tooth, causing pain and infection and even damage to the underlying adult tooth.
Dr. Dawar says, "Prevention is the best medicine. Taking care of your children's teeth early on can prevent painful decay, treatment under sedation or general anesthetic, and possibly future orthodontics."
VCH offers a no cost dental program in Richmond for children up to five years of age if they are not able to cooperate in a dental office, or their parents cannot afford a dentist.
April is National Oral Health Month.
The British Columbia Dental Association is the recognized voice of dentistry in this province, dedicated to serving the interests of its members and promoting oral health. There are over 3,500 practising dentists in BC.