Early prevention leads to lifetime of smiles

Every February, the American Dental Association sponsors National Children’s Dental Health Month. The aim of Children’s Dental Health Month is to raise awareness about the importance of oral health for children. Developing good dental hygiene habits at an early age and scheduling regular dental visits helps children get a good start on a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.

The month-long observance brings together dentists, hygienists, healthcare providers, and educators to promote the benefits of good oral health to children, their caregivers, teachers, and many others.

Shocking statistics for National Children’s Dental Health Month

Take a look at some of these children’s dental health statistics that you may not know about:

• Childhood tooth decay is five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever.

• Cavities and gum disease are transmittable. Parents can transfer the bacteria in saliva in their mouths to their children by sharing food, utensils, even kissing.

• According to the Academy of General Dentistry, more than 51 million school hours are lost each year due to dental-related illnesses.

• Almost 50 percent of tooth decay remains untreated in low-income children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

• Tooth decay affects more than one-fourth of U.S. children ages 2 to 5 and half of those ages 12 to 15.

According to a 2012 CBS News article, children in the Los Angeles School District who had tooth pain were four times more likely to have a grade point average below the median GPA of 2.8.

Even after reading statistics like these, the reality is many children still do not visit the dentist until there is a problem. Children’s dental health needs to be priority.

The most important step against childhood dental issues is to establish good oral health habits at an early age. Basic preventive steps to help children maintain optimal dental health are:

Eight steps to a healthy smile for National Children’s Dental Health Month

1. Brush for two minutes, twice per day … with your children.

2. When the gaps between children’s teeth close, it’s important to start flossing. Make sure you help your child floss. Rule of thumb: when they can tie their own shoes, then they can floss their own teeth.

3. Eat a well-balanced diet, limiting sugary snacks and drinks between meals.

4. See the dentist regularly for checkups (typically every six months), and ask if sealants and/or fluoride is necessary for your child.

5. Establish good dental hygiene habits early. Even before the first tooth erupts, you can help your child get accustom to brushing teeth by using a soft washcloth and rubbing the inside of the mouth.

6. Make sure your child wears a mouth guard when participating in competitive and recreational sports where impact, contact and collisions are likely to occur.

7. Check your child’s mouth for the signs of disease. This includes holes or dark spots on teeth. Bleeding, swollen or bright red gums, and bad breath.

8. Serve as a good role model by practicing good dental hygiene habits. Remember cavities and gum disease can transfer from your mouth to your child’s.

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