February is National Children’s Dental Health Month! It is a chance for our pediatric dental care providers to spend a little extra time and attention to educating our patients and parents of younger patients about all the benefits of preventive dental care. In our practice, we recommend regularly scheduled fluoride treatment as a preventive oral health measure for kids! Did you know that fluoride can benefit teeth before they even break through the gums? Fluoride ingested from foods, beverages and dietary supplements can make tooth enamel, which is the hard, outer coating on your teeth stronger, and more resistant tooth decay.
After teeth appear, fluoride applied topically on the surface of teeth can rebuild weakened enamel and even reverses early signs of tooth decay. When you brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste, or use other fluoride dental products like rinse. Fluoride in foods and water continues to provide topical benefits because they mix with your saliva, and constantly bathe the teeth with fluoride which strengthens the tooth enamel.
The American Dental Association (ADA) established National Children’s Dental Health Month over thirty years ago to promote the benefits of starting preventive dental care with kids as soon as first tooth appears to optimize lifelong good oral health. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease in the country. Tooth decay affects more children than asthma or hay fever. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 40% of children will have some tooth decay by the time they enter kindergarten.
Parents should know that tooth decay is highly preventable. These recommendations are all things you can do to get your child off to a great start with good dental health.
Regularly scheduled dental checkup
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that parents schedule their child’s first visit to the dentist when the child turns one year of age. First birthday equals first checkup. However, if a parent detects discoloration or staining, they should schedule an appointment right away.
Brush and floss twice each day
The very best tools available to parents are a toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss. The ADA recommends that parents teach their children to brush for two minutes two times a day—morning and evening at bedtime. Use only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and teach your child to avoid swallowing toothpaste. Parents should provide help and supervision until a child is about seven or eight years old.
Limit sugary treats and drinks
This includes avoiding juice between meals. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends limiting juice to four to six ounces per day. Parents can also replace sugary treats with healthy snacks such as cheese, yogurt, and fruit.
Make sure your water has fluoride
Fluoride helps teeth resist acid attacks by strengthening tooth enamel. If your local water supply does not have fluoride, talk to your dentist about fluoride drops or tablets.
National Children’s Dental Health Month is a great time to remind parents that it’s never too early to start your child on the path of good dental health. Habits developed early will become lifelong healthy ones!