February once again brings National Children's Dental Health Month (NCDHM), an oral health campaign that helps educate children about the importance of maintaining good oral health and developing healthy habits that will carry into adulthood.
About 60 percent of children will have had some form of tooth decay by age five, making it one of the most common diseases among children in the United States. The good news is that tooth decay in children can often be prevented if parents are proactive. The Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) encourages parents to help their children develop good habits at an early age, including:
- Brush teeth twice a day, for at least two minutes each time. Help your kids brush their teeth two minutes each time, twice a day -- for healthier teeth, fresh breath, fewer cavities, and to avoid painful dental problems. Talk to your child's dentist about when to begin using a fluoride toothpaste and fluoride supplements if your community's water supply is not fluoridated.
- Floss between teeth at least once a day. Break off about 18 inches of floss (the length from a fingertip to your elbow) and use it to floss younger kids' teeth, or teach older kids how to do it themselves.
- Establish healthy eating habits for your child. Offer a variety of foods from the five major food groups: fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains and meat/poultry/fish. A balanced diet helps keep your children's teeth and gums healthy. A diet high in natural or added sugars may place your child at extra risk for tooth decay.
- Visit the dentist every six months for a checkup and professional cleaning. Seeing a dentist regularly is important for good oral health. Dentists can detect small problems before they become bigger, more painful problems. Your child could have oral health problems you don't know about like cavities or gum disease. Making your child an age one dental appointment will help start the process of protecting his or her teeth for years to come. Baby teeth usually begin coming through the gums around six months so it is important to begin caring for them immediately.
- If your child is involved in any contact sport or recreational activity, he or she should always wear a mouthguard. Examples of contact sports include football, field hockey, ice hockey, baseball, basketball, softball, wrestling, soccer, lacrosse, rugby, in-line skating and martial arts.
Pennsylvania Dental Association