On The Cusp: Children’s Dental Health Month

As many of you may know, the month of February has been designated National Children’s Dental Health Month. While other causes are also honored this month the importance of good dental health for children makes this cause near and dear to my heart.  Because of this I felt it would be a good time to talk again about children and their dental health.

While more preventive care options are available to children we still are seeing more problems with children than we had expected to be seeing twenty-five years ago when I was just beginning my practice. The majority of issues with children are still cavities and this is due to the prevalence of sugar in our diet and the growth in consumption of sodas and health drinks-both of which are high in acids that strip the enamel from both children and adults’ teeth. This situation as well as other potentially problematic growth and development problems has led to a change in the recommended age for a child’s first visit to the dentist. It was recommended that a child see a dentist by eighteen months but we now suggest that a child’s first visit should be completed by around age one. Basically at this visit your child’s dentist would just be examining for problems and getting them acquainted with the dental office setting. Any treatment needed at this age would likely require specialist care as cooperation issues are abundant in this age group. Do not buy into the idea that these children have only baby teeth and since they fall out anyway there is no point in caring for them. Most baby teeth are present until eleven or twelve years of age and untreated decay can result in abscesses and a good deal of pain for your child if cavities are not treated properly. Primary teeth also serve to help with the alignment of permanent teeth and their early loss can lead to the need for orthodontic treatment.

It is good to start caring for your children’s teeth as soon as they appear. A soft cloth or toothbrush can be used to gently clean the emerging teeth and to keep the gum healthy. Toothpaste can be used but it is recommended to wait until a child has reached two years of age before fluoride toothpaste is begun. If a child swallows too much fluoride it can result in discolored permanent teeth. Also remember not to use sugary liquids in babies’ bottles as this can result in terrible decay when this sugar is allowed to sit on the teeth for long periods of time. As you brush your baby’s teeth start to allow them to take charge of this task for themselves but continue to watch them until you are sure they  are doing a good job and be sure to clean any missed areas. Once you are confident they are doing a good job you can allow them to brush for themselves.

Ideally we would like children (and adults) brushing their teeth for a minimum of two minutes two times per day (preferably morning and evening) to prevent problems with decay. To this end a website has been developed to encourage this. By logging in to the website www.2X2min.com you can find a number of two minute videos that can be downloaded to a smartphone or tablet that will occupy your child for two minutes and will ensure that they are brushing for the recommended length of time. Try this strategy to get your child on a good habit of brushing properly.

There are many, less common problems that can occur with children’s teeth that can be handled much more easily if the children see a dentist at an early age. Many questions that a parent might have can be answered by their family dentist or by visiting the above-mentioned website www.2X2min.com. Please use National Children’s Dental Health Month to commit yourself and your child to a lifetime of good oral health.

Thanks for reading!

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