This year's month-long, February observance of National Children's Dental Health Month features the campaign slogan, "Defeat Monster Mouth." Thousands of healthcare providers, dental professionals, and teachers are promoting good oral health care practices and benefits to children, their parents, and their caregivers.
Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in children today, even though it is nearly entirely preventable. Good oral hygiene practices can help children avoid getting cavities. These include proper brushing/flossing and other measures such as using a fluoride toothpaste and getting sealants. It is equally important that you take care of your child's baby teeth in addition to their permanent ones. While baby teeth are temporary, they play an important role in your child's ability to chew food and speak clearly. Here is what you can do to ensure your children's optimal dental health:
Brushing and Flossing
Many adults who are brushing and flossing every day have no idea they are doing it incorrectly. Follow these four steps to ensure healthy teeth for you and your children:
- Brush a minimum of two minutes, twice a day, with a fluoride toothpaste. If you only brush twice a day, be sure to do it first thing in the morning and before you go to bed.
- Floss every day at bedtime. Use 18 to 24 inches of floss, wrapping each end around your middle and index fingers. Hold the floss against each tooth, and slide it up and down, then back and forth.
- Limit the number of snacks you eat each day.
- Visit your dentist every six months for a routine exam and cleaning.
Your child's first dental visit should be scheduled by their first birthday, followed by six-month checkups. Expect your dentist to take a first set of x-rays between ages four and six. Baby teeth usually fall out and give way to permanent teeth between the ages of six and twelve. Allow your child to wiggle loose teeth until they fall out; it minimizes pain and bleeding.
At age seven, your dentist may suggest an orthodontic evaluation. This is done simply to identify any potential problems early, which will help ensure them a beautiful smile later on.
Make sure to implement these tips for the rest of February's National Children's Dental Health Month, and each month going forward. Scheduling regular dental visits along with teaching good oral habits at an early age will not only improve your children's dental health in the short term, but develop lifelong good dental habits.