Did you know that tooth decay happens to more than one-fourth of children ages two to five and one-half of children 12 to 15?
Every February the American Dental Association (ADA) kicks off National Children's Dental Health Month to help inform kids about oral health. Their goal is to instill good habits while children are young so their teeth and gums will be strong and healthy later in life. You can never start too early, and the ADA's NCDHM tries to get kids excited about learning the best ways to brush. Their campaign aims at kids and offers some tips for parents and teachers for encouraging good dental practices at school and home.
The themes for children this year are: For a Sparkly Smile, Remember to Brush & Floss Every Day! - starring Flossy and Buck McGrinn. For preteens and teens the theme is "Rock Your Smile."
What should parents and caregivers do to encourage the best dental care for their kids?
• Start early - as soon as a child's first tooth appears, wipe it clean with a damp cloth. When more teeth arrive us a small soft toothbrush. When a child is 2 years old you can begin adding a tiny amount of toothpaste. Use a pea-sized amount for children under 7 and teach them to spit and rinse thoroughly.
• Brush their teeth twice a day -- once after breakfast and once before bed. Brush for two minutes, getting all tooth surfaces, gums, backs of teeth and tongue. Brush for your children until they can handle the brush on their own. Then watch closely to make sure they are brushing well and not using too much paste.
• Floss once a day to removed food particles.
• Unless a doctor recommends - don't let children under 6 use a mouth rinse.
• Encourage nutritious meals and try to avoid frequent snacking between meals. Avoiding sugary foods and soda is a good idea. Each time a child eats or drinks something sugary the acids attack teeth for twenty minutes. Over time this leads to tooth decay.
• Visit the dentist every six months for checkups and professional cleaning. This will protect teeth and a child feel more comfortable seeing the dentist.
• If your child plays sports - have them wear a mouth guard.
• Protect with fluoride. If you don't have fluoridated water - discuss fluoride options with a dentist. Be careful with children under 7 - if they swallow too much fluoride they may get white spots on their teeth.
• Talk to a dentist about dental sealants that can help protect your child's teeth from decay.
• If you are pregnant - pay close attention to prenatal care and eating healthy. Get lots of folic acid to prevent birth defects to the brain and spinal cord as well as a cleft lip/palate.
Remember that if you're honest and explanatory (and even excited) about dental care, this will help your child understand the importance of their teeth and help instill greater responsibility and appreciation for their own bodies.
Have any other dental tips for parents and kids? Join the discussion in the Dental1 forums
Check out Dental1's past feature story "Give Kids a Smile - National Children's Dental Health Month"
More info from the CDC