February is National Children’s Dental Health Month

Dental Health: Why is it important?
Tooth decay and cavities are two of the most common chronic diseases for children ages 6 to 9. About 20% of children ages 5-11 years have at least one untreated decayed tooth. It is important to start caring for your child’s dental health when they are babies in order to prevent cavities from occurring. Attitudes and habits established at an early age are critical in maintaining a lifetime of good dental health.

Dental Plaque: What is it and why is it bad?
Dental plaque is a sticky, colorless film made up of food particles and bacteria that live in the mouth. It collects and forms on the surface of teeth. When the plaque that is on the teeth comes in contact with foods that are sugary and starchy, acid starts to form which can attack the teeth and eat away at the protective layers of enamel which can then damage teeth and cause cavities to form. Minimize the amount of plaque buildup on teeth by brushing and flossing.

What can parents and caregivers do?

For Babies

  • Wipe baby’s gums twice a day with a soft, wet, clean cloth. Once in the morning after feeding and right before bed to wipe away sugars and bacteria that can cause cavities.
  • When teeth come in, start brushing their teeth twice a day with a soft small-bristled toothbrush and water.
  • Visit the dentist by your baby’s first birthday

For Children

  • Your child should brush their teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Make sure your child is drinking tap water that contains fluoride.
  • Schedule regular dental cleanings every six months.
  • Ask your dentist about applying sealants to your child’s teeth if appropriate.

When should your child start going to the dentist? Schedule your baby’s first dental appointment when their first tooth comes in.

Pregnant Women. Did you know that pregnant women can be more prone to gum disease and cavities? This can affect their baby’s health. Follow these three steps to keep your teeth healthy during and after pregnancy.

  1. Brush twice a day.
  2. Floss daily.
  3. Visit the dentist before your delivery. It’s safe!

Teeth Brushing Tips

  1. Choose the right toothbrush for your child! The brush should fit comfortably in all areas of your child’s mouth and the bristles should feel gentle on their gums.
  2. Teach your child to not brush their teeth too hard. Brushing too hard can cause gums to recede and expose root areas. This can lead to increased sensitivity to hot, cold and sweet foods.
  3. Show your child how to brush all sides of their teeth gently and slowly for 2-3 minutes in all directions.
  4. Have your child gently brush their tongue to remove bacteria and food particles. Demonstrate to show them how they can do this safely.
  5. Replace your child’s toothbrush every 3-4 months as the bristles begin to spread.
  6. Purchase toothpaste that includes fluoride.
  7. A pea-size amount of toothpaste is all your child needs when brushing their teeth.

Good Nutrition. Age-appropriate nutritious foods and beverages are needed to maintain healthy and strong teeth.

  • Encourage good eating habits. Choose a variety of foods from each of the food groups. Set regular meal and snack times. Good snacks might include carrot sticks, string cheese, fruit, popcorn, and dry cereal.
  • When your child is thirsty, offer water. Avoid sweet drinks such as soda, Kool-aid, Hi-C and fruit punch.
  • Brush after eating, especially after eating sugary foods and foods that stick to your child’s teeth.
  • Help control your child’s “sweet-tooth.”
  • Avoid foods that are bad for your teeth: Candy, cookies, cake, pastries, pudding, doughnuts, granola bars, syrups, and sugary beverages.

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/basics/childrens-oral-health/index.html