Let’s talk a little about healthy mouths. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and for many of us, this is usually associated with all of those heart-shaped candies. So it makes sense that the American Dental Association would declare February National Children’s Dental Health Month.
Tooth decay is the second most common infectious disease, after the common cold. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 20% of children from ages 5-11 and about 13% of children from ages 12-19 have at least 1 untreated decayed tooth. Tooth decay can lead to severe toothache, infection, and tooth loss. So, what can we do to help prevent tooth decay and cavities in children? We can teach our children how to take care of their teeth from a young age. Brushing twice a day and flossing is a simple daily habit that can prevent tooth decay and gum disease.
Six Tips That Will Lead to a Lifetime of Healthy Teeth and Gums:
Take your baby to his or her first dental visit around the time of your child’s first birthday or within 6 months after the baby's first tooth erupts.
Brush your child’s teeth 2 times a day for 2 minutes until they are in 2nd grade (age 7-8). Use an egg-timer if needed. If your child wants to brush their own teeth, then let them. You can finish brushing their teeth afterward. After age 7-8, supervise your child while they brush their teeth on their own.
Floss daily! I know, no one likes to floss. But remember, teeth have 5 sides. Brushing will clean 3 of the 5 sides. Only flossing will get the remaining 2 sides of each tooth. So brushing alone will only clean just over 50% of our teeth! Start small and develop a routine. It will get easier with time.
Use toothpaste with fluoride. Fluoride prevents cavities, strengthens tooth enamel, and limits the growth of oral bacteria. For babies, use a tiny amount (about the size of a grain of rice) of fluoridated toothpaste. As your child grows and develops the ability to spit, around the age of 3, then you can increase to a pea-size amount of toothpaste.
Eat a healthy diet and limit sugary drinks and snacks. Sugar promotes the growth of bacteria in our mouths. Brushing or rinsing with water after sugar intake will help keep your teeth healthy.
Continue to take your child to regular dental visits about every 6 months or as recommended by your dentist.
In the end, we all want our children to develop healthy teeth and gums. It takes time and effort to teach our children healthy oral habits, but it is so worth it!