Pediatric Dentistry: Celebrating Children’s Dental Health Awareness Month

Did you know that dental health care is affecting your kids more than you might think? Well, it’s true! According to the National Education Association’s website, approximately 51 million hours of school are missed by American students due to oral health problems each year. These absences are mostly due to severe mouth pain but they also include illness caused by oral bacteria and recovery time after major oral health treatments and surgeries. Studies show that students who have oral health problems are “4x more likely to have lower grade point averages” than fellow students who have great oral health. This is a serious problem that needs attention. Our first priority should be to teach our children and give them the skills they need to succeed in the future. When a student misses class because of a cavity or dental problem, they miss a chance to develop their math, reading, writing, problem solving, and teamwork skills. The students who suffer the most are those who chronically miss school because of poor health. February is National Children’s Dental Health Awareness Month, and our goal is to help parents understand the importance of instilling good oral hygiene habits in their children so their children can have the best chance at having a successful future.

In a recent feature published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it states that over 19 percent of children between the ages of 2 and 19 live with untreated and undetected tooth decay. That means that 19 percent of our children are living with an oral health problem that can easily be avoided. Preventing cavities is the best way to ensure your child’s successful oral health. To help your child prevent tooth decay, teach them the proper way to brush their teeth. As you teach them, make sure they know that it is important to brush for two minutes twice a day. Most children lack the dexterity to effectively clean their teeth on their own until they are 8 years old, which is why it is important to help your child brush each day. To give your child the best oral health possible, act as a role model. Show your child that you brush your teeth, and then, when you are done brushing, help them brush their teeth. Letting your child brush their teeth on their own is a great way for your child to learn—as long as you help your child “finish the job.”

Other ways you can help your child prevent oral issues is by taking them to their regular oral health exams, providing healthy snack options, and using fluoride to protect your child’s young teeth.

At Smiles Dental, we recommend bringing your child in for their first oral health exam when they are 2 years old. When you bring your child in, you are more than welcome to come into the office as well. We generally like to have your child sit on your lap during the first appointment. That way, they feel comfortable and safe while our dentists examine their oral cavity. Our entire team believes in a tell, show, do philosophy, which means that our dentists first tell the kids what they are going to do, then they show the kids the tools they use to do so, and then they do the exam. This is a great way to calm your child’s fears and nerves when they come into our office. Our dentists are also able to recommend fluoride treatments for your child. There are several factors that can help you decide on fluoride treatments, including the local water fluoridation and the amount of fluoride in your child’s toothpaste. If you have any questions about fluoride or about the oral exams, we encourage you to ask our dental team at any time.

Another way you can help your child prevent tooth decay is by providing healthy snacks for them. Studies have shown that children who consume a high level of sugary foods and drinks, including soda, cookies, and candy, are at a greater risk for a number of health issues. This is because our saliva reacts with sugars and changes the pH balance within the mouth. When this happens, the bacteria are able to grow and develop. As the bacteria spreads, the process of tooth decay on your child’s teeth begins.

Fluoride treatments, healthy snacks, dental health exams, and a regular oral hygiene routine are all ways you can help your child maintain and improve their oral health. When your child has less dental health issues, they miss fewer days of school, which gives your child the opportunities they need to succeed. Talk to your dentist about your child’s dental health today. Our doctors are here for you and they want to help you keep your entire family healthy and smiling!

Additional Resources and Education Materials:
National Education Association
American Dental Association
Colgate Oral and Dental Health Resource Center
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