By: Beth Walsh for Dental1
A new law in California requires that parents provide evidence of their school-aged children’s dental care. Children must have a dental check-up by May 31 of their first year in public school, in kindergarten or first grade. Dental evaluations occurring within the 12 months prior to school entry also meet the requirement.
Check your child's mouth for any signs of gum disease, including bleeding gums, swollen and bright red gums, gums that are receding away from the teeth, and bad breath.
Make sure your child eats a balanced diet. Insufficient levels of calcium and vitamin C may make people more susceptible to periodontal disease.
Experts estimate that 750,000 elementary school-aged children in California have untreated tooth decay, which is up to two-thirds of children in some areas. Seventy-one percent of the state's third-graders have suffered from tooth decay, and 29 percent of kindergartners and third-graders surveyed had untreated cavities. These figures are disturbing, given that tooth decay is completely preventable.
A report released by the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General last year named dental and oral disease a "silent epidemic" among Americans, even in children. Another study said that dental care is the most prevalent unmet health need among American children. Tooth decay is the most common infectious disease among children and is five times more common than childhood asthma. An estimated 51 million school hours are lost every year due to dental problems.
Children with early, untreated dental problems do not get as many nutrients from their food, can experience painful chewing, and are more susceptible to other problems such as ear and sinus infections. Speech problems can also develop. Although baby teeth start to fall out at about age six, they serve as important “place holders” for permanent teeth. Untreated dental problems can cause pain that distracts children from learning.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children have their first visit to the dentist around their first birthday.
California lawmakers said that the goals of the new requirement are to establish a regular source of dental care for every child, identify children who need further examination and dental treatment, and identify barriers to care.
It is important to establish good oral health habits early. Wipe baby teeth with a clean washcloth and take your child to a dentist around his first birthday. Use a soft toothbrush and toothpaste to brush his teeth but try to avoid letting him eat the paste. Be a good role model for your children by practicing good oral health care habits yourself.