By Dr. Amar Trivedi, Director of Dental Services
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. Created by the American Dental Association (ADA), the event brings awareness to the importance of dental hygiene and oral health for children. Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in children and impacts even more kids than asthma.
According to the ADA, more than 40% of children have tooth decay by the time they reach Kindergarten. Those who suffer from poor oral health are three times more likely to miss school. Fortunately, there are ways parents can help promote healthy dental habits.
Create a regular brushing schedule. Begin brushing your baby’s teeth with an infant toothbrush as soon as his or her first tooth appears. Brush twice each day for two minutes. Use water and a tiny bit of fluoride toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice) for babies. Children between the ages 2-6 can use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
Begin scheduling regular dental check-ups. Take your little ones in for a dental visit every six months starting when the first tooth appears (usually around 6 months) or by your child’s first birthday. Early checkups help prevent cavities and tooth decay, which can lead to pain, trouble concentrating and other medical issues.
Don’t forget to floss. Once two teeth touch, it’s time to start flossing your baby’s teeth. However, by the ages of seven or eight years old, they can usually floss on their own. If a child refuses to regularly floss, parents can use that as an opportunity to remind them the benefits of regular flossing.
Encourage your child to drink water. The 2021 theme for National Childhood Dental Health Month is “Water: Nature’s Drink.” Sugary drinks such as fruit juice, soda and sports drinks can lead to tooth decay. Drinking water with fluoride is an important way of preventing cavities.
Choose healthy snacks. Children love to snack. Treats like cookies, and candy can lead to cavities. Instead, give kids calcium-rich snacks like cheese or low-sugar yogurt. If you have to resort to candy – choose a chocolate bar over gummy candy or sticky sweets. These can lodge in between teeth, even after brushing.
Model dental health. Children often learn good habits from family members. The most important impact on your children will come from observing your own good dental care habits. If you want your children to brush their teeth regularly, you need to brush your teeth regularly. The same applies to flossing and regular dental checkups.
A lifetime of dental health begins at an early age. Call 832-548-8000 or log on to the Legacy Community Health website to schedule a pediatric dental appointment for your child.