February is National Children’s Dental Health Month (NCDHM), and there’s no better time to improve your child’s oral health! When it comes to protecting your kiddo’s smile, prevention is key. By combining healthy habits at home with regular dental visits, it’s possible to stop childhood tooth decay before it ever becomes a problem.
How bad is tooth decay really?
Tooth decay is actually the most common chronic disease of childhood in the US. The CDC reports that as many as 20% of children aged 5-11 years old have at least one untreated cavity. For tweens and teens, an estimated 13% have at least one cavity. When left untreated, children can develop problems with eating, speaking, and learning.
Studies conducted by the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) have found that children with poor oral health are three times more likely to miss school because of dental pain than their peers. They also found that absences related to dental pain or infection increased the likelihood of poor school performance, whereas absences for routine dental care did not.
What can parents do to prevent cavities?
Luckily, there’s a lot that parents and guardians can do to keep kiddos cavity-free! Children have different needs as they get older, and we’re here to help you navigate those (s)milestones.
Just because your baby doesn’t have all of their teeth in yet doesn’t mean skipping out on oral care.
- Wipe your baby’s gums twice a day with a soft, clean cloth after their first feeding and again before bedtime to remove bacteria or sugars that can cause cavities.
- When your baby begins to get their teeth (usually around 6 months of age), you’ll want to start brushing their teeth twice a day with a soft, small-bristled toothbrush and a rice-sized smear of fluoride toothpaste – just make sure they don’t swallow.
- Schedule your baby’s first dental visit by their first birthday, or when their first tooth appears! These visits help your baby to become more comfortable in our offices and allow our teams to track developmental milestones.
Now that your child has all of their baby teeth in, it’s time to take good care of them. Parents should still either brush their children’s teeth or supervise their routine.
- Help your child brush their teeth for two minutes, twice a day with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
- Once your child’s teeth begin to touch, that means it’s time to floss. There are a variety of flossing tools designed for children to make this easier for parents.
- Your child should be visiting their dentist every six months for a check-up and cleaning. It’s important to keep dental visits positive to help children feel safe and involved in their oral health.
Children begin to lose their baby teeth around age six to make room for their permanent teeth – which means it’s time for them to use what they’ve learned and take care of their smiles like big kids!
- Drinking plenty of water – especially tap water containing fluoride – is essential for patients of any age to rinse away sugars and bacteria. A healthy diet goes a long way, as our oral health is tied to our overall health.
- Once your child gets in their first molars (around age 6) and their second molars (around age 12), have your dentist apply sealants to those teeth. Not only are sealants covered at 100% by most insurances, they’re 80% effective at preventing cavities!
- Because your child is losing their baby teeth and getting in their permanent teeth, it’s important that they understand these teeth are for a lifetime and need to be cared for. (Plus, developing mouths means a visit to an orthodontist for a consult around age seven!)
How can I get my child involved with their oral health?
Getting kids excited about their oral health takes a joint effort from parents and dentists, but just because you’re establishing routines doesn’t mean it can’t be fun! To help your kiddos get onboard about taking care of their smiles, we’ve made a special video presentation featuring Smiley O’Riley, Dental Depot’s Clown Conductor and beloved mascot.
For years, Smiley traveled to schools, daycares, and community events to encourage and empower children to do their best when it comes to taking care of their smiles. These days, however, Smiley’s in-person presentation has been made into a video so that it’s accessible to both parents and teachers to stream for free – anytime, anywhere.
Featuring Smiley O’Riley and our friends, the Sugar Free Allstars, our video will have your kids singing, dancing, and most importantly – learning good habits that stick to them better than sugar on a smile! This presentation teaches kids (Pre-K through 5th grade) about brushing and flossing, the importance of choosing healthy snacks, and more!
Along with the video presentation, we want to provide your kiddos with the tools they’ll need to act on Smiley’s lessons. Our Smiley Bags include a toothbrush, toothpaste, coloring sheet, and more – completely free of charge and available for local pick-up or delivery.
To request our free video and Smiley Bags, please fill out this form.
We hope you all have an awesome Children’s Dental Health Month this February!