Have you brought your child or children to see the dentist? Dental health is very important for infants and children. As I have said before, your mouth is the key to your overall health. Children should start going to see a dental professional at least by age three if not sooner. As parents its important to implement good oral habits with children. Most people are unaware that tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in children. The ADA reports that children in the United States miss over 51 million hours of school each year due to dental issues, and even more surprising, approximately 17 million children go without dental care each year and pediatric dental disease is even higher, reaching approximately 44% of children before they are in kindergarten (1). This information is important because when children miss school, they miss out on very important learning skills, such as reading and writing, which are crucial stepping stones to a successful education. In addition to missing school, tooth pain can cause these children to become distracted during school causing them to have lower grades.
How can you as a parent help your children keep a healthy oral cavity?
1. See a dentist regularly (every 6 months starting no later than age 3) and following dental recommendation for Sealants and X-rays.
2. Good homecare routine, homecare is the most important thing you can do daily with your child. Parents should help their children brush 2x daily for 2 minutes and continue to help them until they have the ability to write their own name legibly.
3. Floss your children's teeth with flossers, and let them try too.
4. Parents who have babies should be wiping their gums with a damp cloth daily to remove milk & bacteria that resides on the gums.
5. A good diet is also important. Most people know that candy and soda are risks for decay, but did you know milk, fruit, and traditional snacks can be dangerous too?
a. Children should not go to bed with a bottle or sippy cup, the milk pools and sit on their teeth causing baby bottle decay. It’s also important to monitor your child during the day and not allow them to sip on milk or juice continuously, water is ok as long as it is from a proper cup that does not require them to suck on it, straws are ok.
b. Consistent exposure to sugar causes the Ph in your child's mouth to continuously be acidic and a breeding ground for bacteria to eat away at the enamel of their teeth. Continuous exposure to sugars, carbohydrates, and acidic foods can increase the risk of cavities.
c. Even natural sugars in fruits, veggies, and yogurts, if left on the teeth too long, break down the enamel leading to a cavity.
d. Carbs turn to sugars in the mouth (examples; gram crackers, goldfish, animal crackers, cheerios, and Ritz crackers). If left on teeth it will break down the enamel.
e. A few other beverages to be aware of are chocolate milk, Gatorade, lemonade, and soda which are all ok occasionally with a meal, but continuously drinking them will breakdown the enamel and cause cavities over time.
f. Gummy vitamins are a great option for kids but they do stick to the chewing surfaces of teeth, so I encourage all vitamins to be taken with breakfast and brush teeth after.
Attitudes and habits established at an early age are critical in maintain good oral health throughout one’s life. So, teach your kids about proper oral hygiene young and provide them with a lifelong oral habit that will give them a reason to smile!
A great website for fun kid dental activities is: MouthHealthyKids.org