Tips to keep your child’s dental health in great shape

The University of Kentucky Office of Public Relations and Strategic Communications provides a weekly health column that can be used and reproduced by news media. This week’s column is written by Cristina Perez, DDS, associate professor and director of pediatric dentistry at the British College of Dental Medicine.

Lexington, Kentucky (February 12, 2024) — Children’s dental health is important year-round. February is recognized as National Children’s Dental Health Month, emphasizing the importance of children’s oral health and raising awareness of children’s dental care.

According to the American Dental Association, tooth decay and cavities are the most common chronic dental disease in children. More than 40% of children enter kindergarten with untreated tooth decay, and they are three times more likely to miss school due to toothache than other children.

Poor oral health or untreated cavities can lead to dangerous infections in children and can lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing and learning.

Good news – Tooth decay is preventable. There are simple steps parents can take to help their children start their journey to a lifelong healthy smile.

Newborns and babies. Start cleaning your newborn's gums with a clean cloth twice a day. This ensures there are no bacteria or yeast on the soft tissues and gets your baby used to a clean mouth.When the first teeth appear, start brushing, using only a small, soft, spiked brush and about a grain of riceA small amount of fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride fights bacteria, strengthens enamel, and prevents cavities. Don't forget to move the brush over the gums in a circular motion to clean your baby's gums and keep them healthy and avoid gum disease.

children. As your child gets older, they should receive routine checkups with the dentist every six months. Brushing your teeth twice a day for two minutes can prevent cavities and protect your teeth from residual sugar.If your child is under 8 years old, make sure you supervise and help them during brushing. They are more likely to clean their teeth effectively in the presence of an adult.

Once your child's teeth start touching, it's time to start flossing. Bacteria and sugar can get stuck between the ridges of our teeth and break down the enamel, leaving more fragile teeth susceptible to cavities.

Healthy Habits. To prevent rot as much as possible, make sure your child stays hydrated. Tap water is best for teeth. Sugary drinks or juices pose a serious risk to your teeth, and limiting the amount you drink or only consuming these drinks with meals can prevent cavities.

This also applies to snacks. Try to avoid sticky and sugary snacks. (It is recommended to use chocolate rather than gummies, which can get stuck between teeth.)

Instead, give your child a calcium-rich snack, such as cheese or low-fat yogurt. Many candies, sports drinks, and fruit snacks contain irritating sugars that can damage and weaken teeth.

risk factors. Be aware of risk factors that may make your child more susceptible to tooth decay. A family history of tooth decay may mean your child is more likely to develop tooth decay. If your child wears braces or oral braces, make sure they clean their braces after meals and floss and brush their teeth.

If any of these apply to your child, be sure to talk to your dentist.

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