According to a recent article from the Stanly News & Press, parents and caregivers might be undervaluing the importance of dental care for their children’s “baby teeth.” Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that only 63% of children, aged two to four, see the dentist at least annually. Past research has shown that preventive care visits to the dentist are very important for small children, and most dental benefit plans cover biannual visits with little, or no, out-of-pocket costs.
Primary teeth, also called “baby teeth,” have a critical role in the overall development of children. When cavities begin to develop, if left untreated, they can become painful and possibly infected, ultimately resulting in premature loss. While many believe that since they’re just “baby teeth” and will be replaced with permanent teeth shortly, it’s no big deal. In fact, these teeth play a vital part in eating, speaking, learning and self-esteem. Additionally, baby teeth help guide permanent teeth to erupt into proper position.
“Tooth decay is preventable. The investment of only a few minutes each day on the part of parents and caregivers, coupled with regular dental checkups, goes a long way in creating healthy smiles to last a lifetime,” says Dr. Diane Monti-Markowski, clinical program director for Cigna Dental.
The following are oral hygiene tips she suggests to help parents and caregivers give their children the best chance at achieving and maintaining good oral health:
- Take your child to visit the dentist by his or her first birthday, or within six months after the first teeth appear.
- Brush teeth gently, twice a day with a child-sized toothbrush and water.
- Floss a child’s teeth daily when touching teeth are present.
- Do not allow your baby to go to sleep with a bottle of formula, milk, juice or any other liquid that is not water.
- Introduce toothpaste for kids who are two and older and who are able to follow directions on spitting after brushing. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends using a toothpaste containing fluoride in the amount of a grain of rice for children younger than 3, and a pea-size for children 3-6. By the age of 3 or 4, your child should be able to brush by themselves, with your supervision.
- Children are much more likely to stick with brushing if you make it fun. Let them pick out their own toothbrush, and play a favorite song or set a timer to help reach the recommended two minute brushing time.
“Adults can also reinforce the importance of oral health by their attitudes,” adds Dr. Monti-Markowski. “Encouraging good habits and showing a positive manner when visiting the dentist can lay the foundation for children to maintain healthy teeth throughout their lives.”