DVIDS – News – National Children’s Dental Health Month: Walter Reed dentists encourage brushing up on oral hygiene

February 1 is National Children’s Dental Health Month, which aims to raise awareness of the importance of oral hygiene and how it can positively impact the entire body. Bradley Bennett, Ph.D., chief of pediatric dentistry, Walter Reed Hospital Department of Dentistry.

Bennett explains that teeth are important not only for proper chewing and nutritional intake, but also for speech development and building confidence and confidence, especially in children and young adults. Additionally, baby teeth save space for permanent teeth and help guide them into proper alignment. Therefore, it is imperative to start taking proper care of your child’s teeth as early as possible.

Baby teeth usually remain in a child's mouth until the growing permanent teeth are ready to erupt through the gums. If a child loses a tooth prematurely, either through an accident or the removal of a diseased tooth, it can result in a loss of space and the potential for new permanent teeth to erupt unevenly or not fully erupt, according to Walter Reed Dentists.

They add that taking care of your child's teeth should start with the expectant mother's healthy diet and lifestyle, and regular visits to the dentist and doctor. Then, even before a child's first tooth appears, parents and caregivers should wipe their child's gums with a clean, soft, damp cloth after feedings or at least twice a day.

“As soon as the first tooth erupts, start brushing with 'apply' fluoride toothpaste,” says Bennett. “Modern eating habits can quickly turn healthy teeth into cavities.”

Bennett added that getting families to change their dietary and oral hygiene behaviors to prevent oral disease can be a challenge, but can be avoided by establishing good habits early on.

Children should brush their teeth twice a day for at least two minutes each time under adult supervision, said Dr. Clayton Cheung, a pediatric dentist at Walter Reed Hospital. “Adults should check frequently to make sure they are brushing effectively,” he shares.

“The goal is two minutes, but sometimes that can be a little too long for little ones,” Bennett added. “The key is to use fluoride. I ask all my patients to spit out any excess toothpaste but not to rinse their mouth afterwards.

Flossing should begin when all of the child's permanent teeth have erupted, or when the child's teeth begin to touch, Bennett says.

“Children usually don’t have the fine motor skills to floss their teeth until they are around 8 or 9 years old. [so] Parents should floss their children's teeth until the child masters this skill.

“Flossing is effective in reducing gingivitis, but there is little evidence that it prevents cavities between teeth. These are often caused by diet,” Bennett shares. “We often see two- and three-year-olds with mouths filled with cavities from drinking juice, soda, and often even milk. A big part of our team’s work is discussing diet and its impact on children’s teeth and overall health.

“Fruit and vegetables are great; juice is not,” Bennett adds. “Fluoridated water has also reduced tooth decay rates over the years.”

In addition, Walter Reed dentists recommend that children limit foods that can get stuck in the grooves and pits of their teeth for long periods of time, such as potato chips, candy, and cookies, and brush their teeth immediately after eating. Additionally, fresh fruits and vegetables can increase saliva flow and help flush away food debris.

Parents should also schedule routine checkups. Dentists say it is recommended to have your first dental checkup at 12 months of age or within 6 months of the first tooth. If your child has not been to the dentist in more than six months, schedule an appointment as soon as possible.
Also, replace your child's toothbrush every three to four months.

Walter Reed's Children's Dentistry offers a full range of dental services, including general anesthesia for certain oral procedures performed in the hospital, Bennett added. “Dental surgery is a common option, but seeking care in the community can cost families thousands of dollars. We can provide this service at no cost to our military families.

He said he found it most rewarding to watch his children grow into young adults and work to repair that relationship with a child who was afraid of the dentist.

“A lot of our work involves behavioral management of children,” Bennett explains. “We have many options, but having a team dedicated to supporting children is a big advantage for general dentists. We also focus on ensuring appropriate growth and development.

“I loved treating children during dental school, but [military] Dentists, we typically only treat active duty personnel. However, while living in Sicily I had the opportunity to treat many military children and thoroughly enjoyed my interactions with the children. This has been growing since I started practicing medicine as my career.

For more information about Walter Reed Pediatric Dentistry, visit https://walterreed.tricare.mil/Health-Services/Dental/Hospital-Dentistry or call (301) 400-2060 to make an appointment. For more information about children's dental health, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website: https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/publications/features/childrens-dental-health.html#:~: text= February %20 is %20%20%20 children's %20 dental, than %20%20 children%20 who%20 are not.

Shooting date: January 2, 2024
release date: January 2, 2024 14:30
Story number: 462947
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