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Pediatric Dentistry and CHD: What You Need to Know

When a child takes proper responsibility of their oral hygiene, they will reduce their risk for infection, prevent cavities, and establish a routine early in life that will set the foundation for the development of healthy, strong teeth. Dental care is extremely important for all stages of life, especially for children with congenital heart disease (CHD). If your child has a heart condition, Pediatric Dental Hygienists Anna Sidel and Tiffany Yater have some important tips you need to know when it comes to pediatric dentistry.

What is Infective Endocarditis?

One of the most significant risks that children with CHD need to look out for when it comes to dentistry is infective endocarditis. Infective endocarditis is an infection in the heart valves or the inner lining caused by bacteria entering the bloodstream. While infective carditis is not common, it can be a severe infection if contracted.

The American Heart Association (AHA) has guidelines that state only children with high-risk heart disease require antibiotics prior to dental treatment. This includes patients who have:

  • Artificial heart valve
  • Endocarditis in the past
  • Certain congenital heart diseases
  • Heart transplant with heart valve disease

If a child does need an antibiotic before a dental visit, they would need to take it an hour before their appointment. No matter the case, you should consult with your child’s cardiologist before their cleaning to see if an antibiotic is needed beforehand.

Effective Tooth Brushing

Anna and Tiffany say it’s never too early to start making oral health a priority for your child. “If your child does not have teeth yet, we recommend cleaning their gums and tongue twice a day with a clean washcloth and water,” says Tiffany. “Start brushing your child’s teeth with an ADA-approved soft toothbrush when the first tooth erupts. These sessions should be about two minutes long. As a parent, you should lead and supervise brushing for approximately the first eight years or until motor and mental function allows the child to properly brush alone.”

Toothpaste is another big thing to consider when it comes to tooth brushing. “If your child is less than three-years-old, use a rice-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste and wipe away any excess toothpaste with a washcloth once you’re finished,” Anna says. “When the child is older than three and able to spit, we recommend going up to a pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste.”

Other Tips for Parents and Their Child’s Dentistry

  • Practice good oral hygiene habits. Your child should be brushing their teeth twice a day and flossing daily. This could keep them at a lower risk for cavities, gingivitis, infection, and other dental complications.
  • Maintain a healthy diet. Sugary foods and drinks can be detrimental to not just your child’s oral health, but their heart health too. Reduce their intake of sugar and encourage them to eat a healthy diet to improve their overall health.
  • Make sure your child has regular dental check-ups. Aim to take your child to a pediatric dentist once every six months for regular cleaning. Some children will need to come in once every three or four months if they have poor oral hygiene.
  • Don’t let them share cups, toothbrushes, eating utensils, etc. This applies to siblings, parents, relatives, and other family members to prevent translocation of bacteria.
  • Have a positive outlook on dental care. For a child to have a successful dentist visit, you have to be involved and enthusiastic about oral health. If you lead by example, your child will follow it!

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s Pediatric Dentistry

CHOA has a pediatric dentistry department available on site. “We have patients coming to see us from surrounding states, and we specialize in treatment of a wide range of medical conditions,” Tiffany says. “We try to avoid unnecessary antibiotics use by staying up-to-date on the latest AHA guidelines.”

“Prevention is key for cardiac patients,” says Anna. “Dental care is the most chronic childhood disease; it’s more common than asthma. Poor dental health can lead to your child missing more school, which is already a concern for a child has a heart condition. It can also lead to poor nutrition, weight loss, and more health issues, which can be detrimental to a child who can is already medically compromised.”

No matter your child’s exact heart condition, dental care needs to be a top priority for your child. To learn more about pediatric cardiology and dentistry, you can learn more about the American Heart Association guidelines, which are continuously changing. For more information about Sibley Heart Center Cardiology and our pediatric cardiology specialists, click here.

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