February is National Children’s Health Month

National Children’s Health Month began as a one-day celebration in Cleveland Ohio in 1941. In 1981, it became a one month awareness campaign that highlights the importance of children’s dental health. The event is just as relevant today as when it started, if not more.

Dental Decay is the #1 Chronic Illness Facing Kids

In 2010, U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin called dental caries and periodontal disease “America’s Silent Epidemic.” She noted, “Dental caries is the most chronic disease in children: it is 5 times as common as asthma and 7 times as common as hay fever.”

What’s more, she highlighted, “If left untreated, [dental caries and periodontal disease] may cause pain, dysfunction, poor appearance, loss of self-esteem, absence from school or work, and difficulty concentrating on daily tasks.” More recent research also points to difficulties in speech and learning. 

Improvements in Children Dental Health since 2000

There is some good news for children’s dental health in America, however. Since 2000, the amount of children receiving tooth sealants has increased, reducing the frequency of cavities and the number of teens who suffer from tooth decay. Sealant is a thin layer of resin that a dentist or hygienist applies to the top of the back teeth, protecting them from bacteria and decay. 9 in 10 cavities occur in the back teeth, where the sealants are placed. Sealants can protect against 80% of cavities for 2 years, and 50% of cavities for 5 years, according to the Center for Disease Control.

Why Caring for Children’s Teeth is Important

Don’t children’s teeth fall out anyway? Why does it matter what happens to them? These are common questions that many parents have. Especially with everything that parents are worrying about already, why add teeth that will fall out to the list? As it turns out, there are many reasons to care for your child’s baby teeth.

To start, cavities hurt, even on baby teeth. A child that is in pain is more likely to be distracted at school. If it hurts when a child eats, he or she will be less inclined to eat well, affecting proper nutrition. In addition, baby teeth are holding space in a child’s mouth for the adult teeth. If baby teeth are prematurely removed like through an extraction due to tooth decay, this can affect how the adult teeth come in. Tooth decay from a baby tooth can also spread to the adult tooth as it comes in. Lastly, placing importance on your child’s dental health from the beginning will help your child develop good hygiene habits that will last a lifetime.

How to Care for Children’s Teeth

When a baby is born, it has 20 primary teeth, some of which are fully developed in the jaw, according to KidsHealth.org. Even before a baby begins teething, therefore, it is important to run a clear, damp wash cloth over your baby’s gums. This clears away bacteria. Babies should also not be left with a bottle over night. The sugars from the formula or milk in the bottle can cause tooth discoloring and decay.

Once your baby begins teething, you can begin brushing with an infant toothbrush. When the teeth start to touch, you can begin flossing. East Madison Dental recommends bringing your baby in for his or her first cleaning and exam at 9 months, and no later than 1 year. This will start your child on a healthy path, where he or she can be monitored for early signs of orthodontic issues, and the hygienist and dentist can instruct your child on how to properly floss and brush, reinforcing what you’re teaching at home.

Plus, trips to the dentist early on, especially with a pediatric dentist, will ensure that children do not develop a fear around going to the dentist, and will be more inclined to keep up with their cleaning and exams into adulthood.

Dental care is important for your child’s well-being for many reasons, and this month we will continue to bring you information and tips through our blog, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.  Stay tuned!

If you have any questions about your child’s dental health, or would like to schedule an appointment with our pediatric dentist Dr. Bracy, please call our office at 201-501-8282 or send us an email at [email protected]