February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, an opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of regular dental hygiene for kids. By starting early, parents and caregivers can help make sure kids’ healthy smiles last a lifetime.
Tooth decay is the most common chronic condition among kids in this country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 20 percent of kids from ages 5 to 11 have at least one untreated cavity, which can not only cause discomfort and pain, but can also have repercussions on development. However, it is possible to prevent tooth decay and the resulting cavities. Although kids will likely lose these baby teeth, it’s still critical to start a habit of good dental hygiene early as kids with cavities are much more likely to experience dental issues as adults.
There are a number of steps you can take now to help ensure kids have healthy smiles for a long time to come:
- Regular Dental Visits – Kids can start seeing a pediatric dentist once their first tooth appears, but should visit no later than their first birthday. From that point on, it’s typically recommended that kids see the dentist for check-ups every six months, but talk to your children’s dentist to discuss the best plan for them.
- Limit Sugar – To help avoid tooth decay, help your kids choose healthy food and drink options that do not have high amounts of sugar in them, which can lead to cavities. This is important even for young babies, as drinking juice and other sweet drinks through a bottle can contribute to early dental issues.
- Encourage Healthy Habits – Start a routine early on by brushing your kids’ teeth twice a day with a small amount of fluoride toothpaste. Help them start to take more responsibility for this habit as they get older, but work with them to make sure they are cleaning their teeth effectively. This can be started as soon as a baby’s first tooth appears, but before then, it’s recommended to clean baby’s gums with a clean, moist cloth. Most importantly, kids learn by watching you! If your children see you brush and floss regularly, they are more likely to do the same.
- Check for Fluoride – The mineral fluoride is critical to strengthening tooth enamel and helping prevent tooth decay, especially for kids as their teeth are developing. Contact your local health department to confirm if fluoride is added to your area’s tap water. If not, talk with your children’s dentist about other ways to ensure your child is getting enough fluoride.
Establishing healthy dental habits when kids are young will go a long way to helping them maintain a healthy smile as they continue to grow.
How Health Advocate Can Help
If you are a Health Advocate member, your Personal Health Advocate can help find a pediatric dentist in your area and schedule an appointment (and, if you’re in need of a check- maybe one for you as well!).
Other Helpful Resources
To learn more, please visit any of the websites below for additional information about children’s dental health: