Many recent stories in dental news have dealt with the close relationship between oral health and overall wellness. The same holds true for children, although a recent study completed by MetLife, shows that many parents don’t know what the pediatric guidelines are for oral health, and certainly aren’t following them. According to the article, “MetLife Study Finds Parents Have Limited Awareness of Recommended Pediatric Dental Care,” found on marketwatch.com, a whopping 97% of parents surveyed claimed their children (under the age of 5 and having dental insurance) had excellent to good oral health. However, nearly a quarter of those parents were told by a dentist that their child was at risk for tooth decay.
The Surgeon General’s office reports that tooth decay is actually the number one disease among children; more common than asthma and even hay fever. Almost half of the parents’ surveyed admitted to only brushing their child’s teeth once a day or less, and another 45% said they’ve never flossed their kids’ teeth. Dr. David Guerrera, DDS and vice president of MetLife Dental Products, states that parents should begin brushing their children’s teeth as soon as they appear. And the American Dental Association recommends that flossing begin as soon as two teeth are touching, to remove plaque that a toothbrush can miss. These two simple practices can help teach children valuable oral hygiene skills at a very young age. Additionally, 60% of parents polled said their children eat at least one sugary snack a day. While kids obviously enjoy them, sweets are very harmful to teeth, as the acid that remains in the child’s mouth can break down the protective enamel. Parents should consider limiting such snacks, and if they aren’t able too, at least brush or rinse the mouth immediately following consumption.
Regular visits to the dentist are also vital to maintaining excellent oral health. Ironically, about ¾ of parent’s with dental insurance added their child to their plan before their first birthday, but only 16% actually took their little one to the dentist before the age of 3. According to Dr. Guarrera, it is recommended that a child see a dentist no more than six months after receiving their first tooth. As I mentioned earlier, dental care and oral health are closely connected to overall wellness, which is why it is so crucial to establish these good habits in your children at an early age. By brushing at least twice a day, flossing, and regularly visiting the dentist, you not only protect your child’s teeth, but create an awareness of the importance of taking care of your teeth for the rest of their life.