February was National Children’s Dental Health Month (#NCDHM), and that means that lately I’ve spent a lot of time out and about in Flower Mound promoting good oral hygiene in children.
Children rely heavily on their parents and educators to instill good hygiene habits. Their little bodies may seem durable and able to bounce back from anything, but their oral health needs special attention from the very beginning.
The children in our community may not be getting the level of attention they need. I have noticed a significant increase in the number of children coming in with full mouth cases. The data reflects that trend on a national level, too.
While overall dental health is improving in the U.S., tooth decay is on the rise for children ages two to five, with about one-third of children in that age range affected by it. More than one-fifth of children ages five to eleven have at least one untreated and decaying tooth. Tooth decay is the most common infectious disease in children today, and it’s nearly 100% preventable!
Brush Twice Per Day To Prevent Tooth Decay
Whether we are talking football or dentistry, I’m a big believer in practicing the fundamentals. The basics go a long way in delivering the biggest returns on our investment, in this case keeping little teeth healthy. Here are the areas that we should be focusing on:
The 2 x 2 Rule
If nothing else, children should be working diligently on the 2 x 2 rule, which is to brush your teeth twice per day, for two minutes each time. Most children will cut this time short (or skip brushing all together). Young children especially should be supervised to make sure they are brushing correctly and for a sufficient duration. The easiest way to solve this issue is to brush your teeth with them.
As kids often lack the manual dexterity to be top notch brushers, you can greatly increase the efficiency of their cleaning by upgrading to electric toothbrushes. Electric toothbrushes designed for kids will help keep them entertained and aid them in brushing long enough. Ask us about Sonicare and Kolibree children’s toothbrushes!
Drink Tap Water
This year’s National Children’s Dental Health Month campaign slogan was “Choose Tap Water for a Sparkling Smile.” More water in general will go a long way to protecting your child’s teeth, but tap water specifically helps because of the added fluoride.
Fluoride is a mineral that helps keep enamel strong and can help prevent cavities. In what is considered one of the most important public health innovations in the 20th century, most of us have access to tap water that is fortified with fluoride. Fluoride is also one of the active ingredients in your toothpaste.
Cut Back on Sugary Snacks and Beverages
The key point to look at here is prolonged sugar exposure. The more time that your children (and you, for that matter) spend with sugar on the teeth, the greater the harm. Snacking throughout the day or drinking juice and milk before bed (without brushing after) can do significant harm to teeth. Keep the sweet drinks and sugar for designated meal times, when you know that they will be brushing soon.
Pay Special Attention to Infants and Preschool Kids
Don’t put infants to bed with a bottle of milk or juice. This can lead to Baby Bottle Tooth Decay, so give them water instead. Even though they are temporary, those baby teeth are important, as they help the adult teeth come in correctly. Clean an infant’s mouth with a moist washcloth or gauze, and once teeth come in they should be gently brushed twice daily. Infants should see a dentist before they reach their first birthday.
Most children will have a full set of teeth by the time they are three years old. They should already be brushing twice per day at this point (with your help), and flossing when their teeth begin to touch. Use a tiny dab of fluoride toothpaste with a soft brush.
We Can’t Do It Without You
Treating cavities is great; preventing them is ideal. You can set your child up for a lifetime of success by modeling the habits that you want them to adopt. If you have any questions about what to do in your child’s particular case, please contact us and we’ll be happy to help you figure it out.