February is Children’s Dental Health month and Dr. Emily Cheek of Leap Kids Dental wants parents to know the best ways they can help their kids maintain their dental hygiene through the early stages of life.
“Parents play an important role in promoting early dental habits,” said Cheek. Cheek recommends beginning dental visits with children between the ages of six and twelve months or by the time they get their first tooth.
“A lot of parents think you don’t have to take them in until they are 3 or 5 years old. Unfortunately, by that time, they could have a mouth full of cavities,” she said. One of the biggest things parents can do to help is to monitor their child’s diet and hygiene habits early on. When watching their diet, it’s good for children to eat lots of fruit, and protein and stay away from junk food. “One thing people don’t realize is juice, Kool-aid, Gatorade and sodas can can cause lots of tooth decay. Unfortunately, some people see no harm in juice, but it’s really just pure sugar, so a lot of times juice or any kind of liquid with a lot of sugar in it can cause cavities between the teeth a lot of the time,” said Cheek.
As always, it is recommended to brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, even for babies. “As soon as teeth start touching that’s an indication that we want to start flossing as well,” added Cheek. According to Cheek, one of the most common misconceptions about children’s dental health is parents thinking they don’t need to treat decay in baby teeth. “That is a complete myth because baby teeth plan an important role in facial development, jaw growth, eating and talking,” said Cheek.
Before the first tooth comes in, Cheek recommends softly rubbing a child’s gums to keep
them clean and help the child get used to the daily practice of teeth cleaning. “Whenever that first tooth comes in, they are already used to this and the habit is ingrained,” she said. She added that it also the health of baby teeth affects how permanent teeth develop. “If you have a baby tooth that becomes an abscess, it can cause damage to the permanent teeth as well,” she said.
Cheek also recommends monitoring children’s sucking habits. “One thing maybe parents don’t realize is having a thumb-sucking or pacifier habit can cause some changes in their teeth and jaw if they are on it for too long. That’s something you want to have a one-on-one conversation with your dentist about,” she said. “A lot of times when February is Children’s Dental Health month kids are young, having that sucking habit is completely normal and healthy, we just don’t want it to extend passed a certain age,” she said. Cheek recommends children be off of pacifiers by age three and thumb-sucking before the
first tooth comes in.
National Children’s Dental Health Month is sponsored by the American Dental Association.
The month-long national health observance works to bring together thousands of dedicated
professionals, healthcare providers and educators to promote the benefits of good oral health
for children, their caregivers, teachers and many others.
The Saline Courier – 8 Feb 2023