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How to prevent an dental abscess

 Anything that protects children from cavities will protect them from abscesses. In addition to having their children drink fluoridated water, brush with fluoride toothpaste, and floss twice a day, parents can do the following:

 
    Limit sweets and snacking between meals. I have always brushed and flossed my kids' teeth and taken them to the dentist every six months, but Charlotte was a big snacker, and we think this contributed to her dental problems. Sugar, the starch found in white bread and crackers (often a go-to snack for kids) creates a good breeding ground for the bacteria that cause tooth decay. "The prevailing wisdom is that if you have sugar more than three times a day, you're probably more prone to tooth decay," Dr. Casamassimo says. Processed foods, such as soda and candy, are particularly detrimental. Eating a dessert with a meal is better than eating a candy bar in the middle of the day, because the child is more likely to be drinking something with the meal that'll clear the sugar.
    Take children to a pediatric dentist. "Sometimes general dentists don't have the skills, patience, or time to be able to do the kinds of things a pediatric dentist can do," says Dr. Casamassimo, who is also chief of pediatric dentistry at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus. Pediatric dentists go through advanced training to help them treat children who don't want to sit in a dentist's chair or those who have complicated medical problems.
    Never accept a wait-and-see attitude. Some dentists do not want to fix baby teeth when a cavity is small, but Dr. Ferretti says parents should make sure any kind of tooth decay is treated; it will never get better on its own.
    Ask how a new medication will affect your child's oral hygiene. Some drugs decrease saliva production, making the teeth more vulnerable to decay. Saliva helps break down acids from sugars and carbohydrates and helps maintain a healthy mouth.
 
As I learned the hard way, preventive dental care is not just brushing, flossing, and having twice-a-year dental checkups. When your child has an injury or an unsuccessful dental procedure, decay can set in quickly and with serious repercussions. But pediatric dentists are trying to improve education and access to care. In Cleveland, for instance, Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital is training pediatricians to do oral exams, and Nationwide Children's Hospital is treating children with abscesses within 24 hours, fixing all their dental problems while they're under general anesthesia.
 
But no one can identify a child's serious dental condition more quickly than her parents. You just have to know what to look for.
 
 
 

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