National Children’s Dental Health Month wraps up today, which is the perfect time to explore the importance of kids dental care. As adults, we know the importance of visiting a dentist every six months for an exam and cleaning, but for children it is important to remember that developing teeth need very specific attention. The American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics note that every child should visit the dentist no later than 12 months of age, or as soon as their first tooth appears. This first visit is especially helpful for parents and guardians because it can serve as a tool to educate parents on how to care for their child’s teeth and what to expect as the child grows. Dr. LaJuan Mountain states, “It is best to start a relationship with the dentist before a dental problem develops. This allows for a focus on development of positive dental habits and prevention of dental caries.”
As of 1998, about 1 in 5 preschool children in the United States experienced dental disease in the form of early childhood caries, or cavities. Studies have shown that children who have early cavities in life are much more likely to continue to have dental problems into adulthood. What can we do? It is important to remember that parents and guardians are both role models and the drivers of healthcare for their children. So as a parent or guardian remember to model good behavior by brushing and flossing your own teeth regularly, visiting the dentist yourself, and monitoring your children’s daily dental hygiene as well. You may even want to consider taking your child with you when you have a dental visit to show them it is not a frightening experience.
Below are some great tips to follow for kids dental care from the American Dental Association:
- Start brushing with fluoride toothpaste as soon as teeth first appear.
- If your child is 3 or younger, you only need a smear of toothpaste, about the size of a grain of rice. For children 3 or older, a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste will do.
- As soon as your child has two teeth that touch, it is time to start flossing!
- Don’t put your child to bed with a bottle. Baby bottle tooth decay most often occurs in the upper front teeth (but other teeth may also be affected). This can happen when the baby is put to bed with a bottle, or when a bottle is used as a pacifier for a fussy baby.
- Water is the best beverage to offer, especially if it has fluoride! Drinking water with fluoride has been shown to reduce cavities by 25%.
- Talk to your dentist about sealants! Sealants form an extra barrier between cavity-causing bacteria and your child’s teeth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and ADA’s Center for Evidence-Based Dentistry, sealants have been shown to reduce the risk of decay by nearly 80% in molars.
We should all follow Dr. Mountain’s advice, “Regular dental visits, brushing and flossing should be a part of every child’s daily hygiene habits. As parents, we ensure that our kids are clean daily; this attention must be applied to our kids’ dental care as well.” The sooner we commit to kids dental care, the happier and healthier they will be in the long run.