February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, and a great time for kids and their parents to learn about oral health.
Each year, the American Dental Association (ADA) and dental professionals come together to promote the benefits of good dental health in children, provide tips for improving oral health in kids, and share helpful information about children’s health.
About 19 percent of children aged 5 to 11 have one or more untreated decayed tooth, according to the Centers for Disease Control(CDC). One in seven adolescents aged 12 to 19 have at least one decayed tooth that needs treatment. An untreated cavity can lead to a tooth abscess, which is a type of tooth infection. Left untreated, a cavity can even destroy the pulp deep inside a tooth, which can eventually lead to the loss of the tooth.
Untreated cavities, infections and other oral health problems can cause pain that can interfere with a child’s ability to eat, speak, play and learn. In fact, kids with poor oral health miss more school and receive lower grades than do children with healthy teeth and gums.
Many communities add fluoride to the water. In some cases, the fluoridation of the community’s drinking water does not adequately protect a child’s teeth. Brushing with fluoride toothpaste can reduce a child’s risk of cavities. Fluoride varnishes provided by your child’s dentist can prevent about one-third of all cavities in the primary teeth, also known as baby teeth. Dental sealants applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth can prevent 80 percent of cavities there.
Tooth decay can develop early in life – even with the first tooth! Lifelong health habits, such as eating well and tooth brushing, also develop early in life. In fact, research shows that a poor diet and inadequate tooth brushing habits in the first two years of a child’s life increases the risk of tooth decay. Furthermore, the development of cavities in primary teeth increases the risk of cavities in permanent teeth.
Oral care starts in infancy. Parents should wipe their infant’s gums with a soft, clean cloth after the morning feeding and right before bed. Cleaning an infant’s gums in this way removes bacteria and sugars that can cause cavities. When a child’s teeth start coming in, the parent can start brushing the child’s teeth with a soft toothbrush and plain water twice a day. Children can begin brushing their own teeth at about age 3, but with parental supervision.
Sports are good for a child’s physical and social development, but sometimes sports can lead to dental injuries, such as chipped and broken teeth. In fact, sports are the cause of 10 to 39 percent of all dental injuries in children. Wearing proper sports gear, such as a mouth guard, can reduce a child’s risk of suffering a sports-related dental injury.
Dentists can spot early signs of tooth decay and other oral health problems, and take action while the oral health issues are in their earliest, most treatable state. Regular trips to the dentist also help kids feel comfortable in the dentist office environment; this can reduce anxiety, fear and stress about visiting the dentist.
Babies should visit their dentist when their first tooth arrives or on their first birthday, whichever comes first. After that, kids should see their dentist about once every six months, or as directed by their dentist.
For a regular checkup, or to learn more about children’s dental health during February, schedule an appointment for your child with Matthews Family Dentistry today. Our dental professionals are always glad to share oral health tips during National Children’s Dental Health Month and throughout the year.