In observance of National Children’s Dental Health Month, the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) reminds parents to take care of their children’s teeth. Every child should visit the dentist by his or her first birthday and promote at-home oral health habits to prevent future problems.
“During a child’s first dental visit, the dentist can carefully examine the development of the child’s mouth,” says AGD Spokesperson Kay Jordan, DDS, FAGD. “Many parents are surprised to learn that their little ones can develop tooth decay, or cavities, as soon as their teeth appear.”
More than 16.5 million children in the U.S. suffer from tooth decay, and children who develop cavities in their baby teeth are more likely to develop cavities in their permanent teeth. Moreover, research shows that many parents lack basic information about their children’s oral health.
“A visit to the dentist doesn’t just benefit the child,” Dr. Jordan says. “Parents can pick up tips about properly caring for their child’s teeth. Talk to your dentist to learn how to soothe teething irritations, stop prolonged pacifier- and finger-sucking, modify your child’s diet to reduce cavity-causing sugars, and more.”
To further promote good oral health in children, parents can utilize these tips at home:
- For children younger than age 2, parents should clean their gums with a damp cloth and brush their teeth using a soft-bristled toothbrush and water.
- For children ages 2 and older, help them to brush for two minutes, twice a day. Children ages 2 and older can use a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste.
- Parents should start flossing between their child’s teeth as soon as he or she has two teeth that touch each other.
- Parents should monitor excessive sucking of pacifiers and fingers, both of which can lead to misalignment of teeth.
“Most importantly, parents should try to lead by example. Show your children how you brush and floss your teeth—that will help to instill the importance of good oral health habits,” Dr. Jordan says. “And don’t forget to see your dentist—at least twice a year, or more if your dentist recommends it!”