Tomorrow marks the beginning of February and with the turning of the calendar page comes the American Dental Association (ADA) sponsored National Children’s Dental Health Month. Every year, the organization commits this time to raising awareness about the importance of oral health, especially among the youth of our country. With that in mind, I wanted to share a handful of basic, yet effective tips I ran across in the Fox News article, “How to keep your child’s teeth healthy,” because at the end of the day, it is the responsibility of the adult caretakers of small children to educate and facilitate the keys to good oral health. This means going beyond insisting that our children brush twice a day, and truly instilling the importance of good oral hygiene and respect for dental care. Unfortunately, nearly 25% of American kids aged 2 to 5 years old have tooth decay, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We’re obviously not all doing the best we can to ensure the optimum health in our kids. If you’re a parent or legal guardian, here’s what you can do to help.
- Begin regular visits to the dentist at an early age. According to Dr. Joel H. Berg, president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, children should see the dentist when their first teeth erupt, or by the time they are one. Not only will regular visits help your child feel comfortable when being examined, the dentist can teach parents how to brush teeth properly, talk about fluoride, and assess risk for future problems.
- Consume a healthy diet. Even though you might not allow your child to consume cookies and other sugary treats on a regular basis, sugars still show up in formula, milk, fruit, juice, and crackers. Be sure to eat a balanced diet and only offer juice at mealtime, with water in between. Never send your child to bed with a bottle.
- Although baby teeth do fall out naturally, it’s important to care for them properly. They hold the place for permanent teeth, and infected baby teeth can actually cause tooth decay in the future replacements. They are also critical in speech development and allow your child to eat nutritious food. It is recommended to start wiping your newborns gums with a damp washcloth after feedings, and once teeth erupt, brush at least twice a day.
- Be a good role model for your kids. Experts agree that kids are truly able to brush properly until reaching the ripe old age of 8, so be sure to supervise brushing habits. Studies also show that when parents practice good habits, their kids are more likely to follow suit. Brushing and flossing together can be the best means of educating and promoting healthy oral hygiene habits.
- Create an enjoyable environment when practicing oral hygiene. Brushing your teeth isn’t the most fun activity in the world, but you can make it more enjoyable by engaging your kids with silly songs, mirror play, taking turns brushing each other’s teeth, or creating a brushing chart to mark progress.
Whether you’re a parent, teacher, member of a dental team, or another caring adult, check out the ADA website for free online resources to assist you with teaching our children the importance of oral health for life.