In my nine months as a dental assistant in an underserved area, I witnessed more early childhood caries than I’d care to see in my entire career. Children came in with generalized cervical decay, often carrying processed snacks or drinks into the treatment room. Generally, parents were unaware of how these frequent exposures to sugars and acidity could be harmful, and they would inform us their children brush with little to no adult supervision.
Our practice faithfully dispensed advice: give fewer snacks and sugared drinks, offer only water overnight, assist children with brushing and flossing, use fluoridated toothpastes,1 etc. We educated parents on the benefits of fluoridated water and recommended that we apply a topical fluoride varnish in-office that day.Sadly, 80% of all children develop decay by the age of 17,2 and as a hygienist, I recognize areas for improvement in the approach my
If we are to change this reality, we should emphasize the most reasonable recommendations. Unsurprisingly, noncompliant children report technique difficulties with manual tasks such as flossing.3
Any steps we can take to reduce the risk of needing restorative work is worth serious consideration, since it can be confusing or traumatic for children. If we recommend home care tasks that are significantly easier to perform, we can aid in childhood caries prevention in a way that is often more achievable for families than perfect brushing and flossing.
My go-to solution for this is recommending Act Kids fluoride anticavity rinses for patients six years and older, along with the corresponding fluoride toothpastes for ages two and above. Many kids are averse to mint, but Act’s lineup introduces an array of yummy flavors: Bubblegum Blowout, Groovy Grape, Wild Watermelon, and Pineapple Punch. The anticavity Pineapple Punch and Bubblegum Blowout rinses are ADA accepted. The bubblegum, grape, and watermelon varieties have complementary toothpaste flavors.
The ADA recommends using a small smear of fluoride toothpaste for brushing as soon as teeth erupt.1 Then, from ages three to six, the toothpaste recommendation increases to a pea-sized amount.
There are a multitude of benefits for recommending these products. In addition to being the number one dentist and hygienist recommended fluroide rinse brand,4 Act’s .05% sodium fluoride rinses can help reduce future caries by up to 40% when used for one minute once daily.5 In lab studies, rinsing with a .05% fluoride formula produces up to four times stronger enamel versus rinsing with water (baseline). This protects thinner, more vulnerable enamel of the primary dentition. Act bottles are designed with an easy squeeze built-in dosing cup for accurate dosage during each use.
Parents respond positively to these recommendations, knowing that this daily ritual will be a pleasure, not a fight. Because Act also offers a full line of products for adults, children and parents can perform their routines together.
Additionally, these recommendations give pediatric patients a new confidence upon their return to our chairs; they proudly report they have been using their mouthwash every day, and we should applaud and praise them for it. From there, they can approach future home care recommendations with ease and optimism. Act also offers other tools to help encourage children, such as a Perfect Rinsing Award and a Brushing Progress Chart, that you can incorporate into your appointments (visit actoralcarepro.com). As proactive educators, we can work with informed parents and empowered kiddos to encourage positive home care experiences that will foster effective, lifelong dental health habits.
Editor's note: This article appeared in the August 2021 print edition of RDH magazine.
- American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Parent FAQ. https://www.mychildrensteeth.org/resources-for-parents/parent-faq/
- National Institutes of Health (U.S.). Diagnosis and management of dental caries throughout life. NIH Consens Statement. 2001;18(1):1-23.
- Ashkenazi M, Bidoosi M, Levin L. Factors associated with reduced compliance of children to dental preventive measures. Odontology. 2012;100(2):241-248. doi: 10.1007/s10266-011-0034-1
- Unpublished survey of 201 dentists and 201 dental hygienists conducted by AMC Global. May 2019.
- Heifetz SB, Meyers R, Kingman A. A comparison of the anticaries effectiveness of daily and weekly rinsing with sodium fluoride solutions: findings after two years. Pediatr Dent. 1981;3(1):17-20.