Children’s Dental Month
Every February since 1955, National Children’s Dental Health Month (NCDHM) has taken place all over the country to teach children about proper dental health and to encourage good oral hygiene. The American Dental Association (ADA) has been sponsoring the cause since its inception, beginning with a national observance of Children’s Dental Health Day on February 8, 1949. Just a few short years later, the cause expanded into a month-long observance, giving parents, educators, and dentists a myriad of opportunities to talk to children about the benefits of a healthy mouth and how to keep up with good dental health.
Begin Proper Dental Care Early
All adults know that old habits die hard, and training your children to have proper oral hygiene is no different. From a young age, children should be brushing and flossing their teeth regularly, in addition to visiting a dental clinic for regular checkups. The earlier that children solidify these good habits, the easier it will be for them to maintain them throughout their lifetime, which will lead to better dental health for years to come.
Dental decay is the most common chronic childhood problem in the United States, even though it’s completely preventable. Dental decay can cause painful infections and complications, resulting in more invasive and painful dental procedures. It can also lead to problems with eating, speaking, and overall health, both now and in the future. In case you aren’t convinced of the importance of beginning proper dental care as soon as that first tooth cuts through the gums, have a look at these staggering statistics about dental decay in children.
- 1 in 10 two-year-old children already have at least one cavity.
- By age three, nearly one-third of all kids will have at least one cavity.
- By age five, about half of all kids have at least one cavity.
- 1 in 5 kids between five and eleven years old have at least one decayed tooth that is untreated.
- Children who use bottles or sippy cups longer are more likely to have cavities.
Learning proper dental care from an early age will boost your child’s self-esteem by helping them achieve a bright and healthy smile. It will also help them avoid preventable diseases, like gingivitis, and other health problems that stem from poor oral health. If you’re uncertain how to teach your child about good dental health, be sure to make an appointment with a local dental clinic at NCHS to speak to a dentist about how to care for baby teeth and set your child up for excellent oral health in the future. In addition, here are some things you can do to encourage healthy oral habits from the start.
- Begin brushing your child’s teeth as soon as they get their first one. Use a small, soft toothbrush and water, and brush their gums and teeth to get them used to the sensation and to minimize bacteria in their mouth.
- Utilize fluoride-free toothpaste until your child learns to spit it out, and then move to a kid-friendly, low-fluoride option. Let your child pick out his or her toothbrush and toothpaste to make the entire experience more personalized and fun!
- Floss as soon as they have a few teeth, and do it regularly. Let them see you flossing your teeth and explain to them why it’s important to keep our mouths clean. Consider counting their teeth or singing a song while you floss to distract them from the discomfort and to allow yourself the opportunity to do a thorough job.
- Help them avoid common dental mistakes, like brushing too hard, not brushing long enough, and using the same toothbrush for too long. Make sure they have a soft bristle brush that is replaced every few months, and teach them to brush for a full two minutes by using a timer, singing a song, or keeping time on a clock.
- Don’t let them consume too much juice or sugary food or candy, and encourage your child to drink water throughout the day and with meals, as this will minimize the harmful acids in the foods or other beverages that can lead to dental decay. It can be tempting to have your child brush his teeth right after eating something sweet or drinking something sugary, but you should have them wait at least 30 minutes after eating before they brush. This is particularly important when they’ve recently eaten something acidic, like oranges or grapefruit, as the acid weakens the teeth’s enamel and brushing too soon can damage it.
- Prepare them for their first dental visit. Tell them about what’s going to happen and why, and practice playing dentist and counting each other’s teeth before you go. If they’re very apprehensive, let them come with you to your dental clinic appointment first to see that there’s nothing to be afraid of.
Take Your Child to a Dental Clinic Before Age One
A recent survey of parents and caregivers found that the average age for a child’s first dental visit was 2.6 years. Most children have 20 teeth by that age! The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that parents take children to their first dental care visit before their first birthday, or at least within six months of getting their first tooth.
The main reason for a dental visit at this early age is to get the child acquainted with not only the dentist and their office, but also proper dental care and oral hygiene. It’s also an opportunity for Mom and Dad to learn how to best care for their child’s teeth now and in the future.
Many parents have the misconception that the health of baby teeth, or primary teeth, is not that important since those teeth will eventually fall out and be replaced. However, proper primary teeth health is incredibly vital for your young child, both when they’re young and when they reach adulthood. Primary teeth help children learn to correctly chew food, helping them get proper nutrition from an early age. They also save space for the permanent teeth and encourage good speech development. Most importantly, they help set the stage for lifelong oral hygiene and gum health. The earlier a child learns that brushing, flossing, and dental care visits are just a part of normal life, the better oral health they will have both now and in the future.
Make Your Child’s Dental Care Appointment Now
In honor of National Children’s Dental Health Month, encourage your child to establish or refine their oral hygiene habits to give them the best dental health possible by making an appointment for a dental care checkup. Many of our NCHS locations have dental clinics with the best local dentists who are ready to see you and your family achieve better oral health. Make an appointment today at an NCHS dental clinic and help celebrate National Children’s Dental Health Month with your kids.