Each February, the American Dental Association (ADA) sponsors National Children’s Dental Health Month to raise awareness about the importance of oral health. The theme this year was “Defeat Monster Mouth”. Thousands of dental health professionals, healthcare providers, caregivers and teachers come together during the month-long observance to promote the benefits of good oral health to children and their parents. But, those of us on the front lines of pediatric dental care need to stress that good dental hygiene is a year-long, life-long practice.
Currently in the US, the number one chronic infectious disease among children is tooth decay. Oral disease causes children to miss 51 million school hours and their parents to lose 25 million work hours annually. And, even though tooth decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease, 3 out of 4 parents report that their children sometimes or frequently forget to brush their teeth, according to a recent national survey by the Ad Council. The survey shows that parents don’t perceive that children’s dental health is as important as other issues, such as school safety and nutrition. But, with 16 million children suffering from tooth decay, we all need to do more to prevent dental pain and disease.
Here are some tooth care basics that can give your children a head start on having healthy mouths for the rest of their lives.
Basic tooth care:
- Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes with a fluoride toothpaste for two minutes. Your toothbrush should be replaced every three to four months or after you’ve been sick.
- Floss daily.
- Eat a balanced diet and limit sugary foods and drinks.
- See your dentist for a check-up and cleaning once every six months.
Infant tooth care:
- When your baby is a few days old, begin a routine of cleaning his or her mouth after feedings. Wipe your baby’s gums with a clean, moist gauze pad or washcloth. As soon as teeth appear, tooth decay can occur.
- Brush baby teeth gently with a child-size toothbrush, infant toothpaste and water.
Tooth care for small children:
- For children aged 2 and older, brush their teeth twice per day with a child-sized toothbrush and a pea-sized amount of pediatric fluoride toothpaste. Be sure they spit out the toothpaste.
- When your child has two teeth that touch, you should begin flossing their teeth daily.
The mouth is the gateway to a person’s overall health, and an unhealthy mouth can be associated with obesity, diabetes and even heart disease. Take action and teach your children the importance of good oral health. The National Children’s Dental Health Month website includes posters, handouts, fact sheets and fun activities. These helpful resources are accessible all year long and emphasize maintaining good oral health by brushing, flossing, rinsing and heating healthy snacks. If you’re concerned about your child’s dental health, schedule an office visit today — it is never too early to develop life-long healthy mouth habits.