A young boy brushes his teeth in the bathroom.
Kids & Family Health

It’s National Children’s Dental Health Month

When it comes to children, it can be easy to overlook oral hygiene. After all, they enter the world without teeth, then lose the first set they get. The truth is, caring for your kids’ gums and teeth is essential for their overall health. It also establishes good habits they will take with them throughout life.

That’s the goal of National Children’s Dental Health Month, established by the American Dental Association. Getting a good start on a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums involves developing good habits at an early age.

Tooth Truths

Tooth decay is the most common preventable chronic disease among U.S. children according to the American Dental Hygienists’ Association. It can damage a child’s physical and social development along with their school performance if left untreated.

Cavities hurt, can lead to infections, and can result in problems eating, speaking, and learning.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 20% of children from 2 to 5 years old have at least one cavity in their baby teeth. Furthermore, children from low-income families are more than twice as likely to have untreated cavities than kids from higher-income households.

Here’s what you can do about kids’ teeth.

Pearly Whites at an Early Age

To help keep your family’s smiles bright and healthy, think P-E-A-R-L-S:

  • Pregnancy is where good oral health starts. Expectant mothers are more susceptible to cavities and gum disease. They can pass their baby the bacteria that causes gum disease. So, it’s important to schedule a dental checkup before delivery.
  • Ensure that your baby’s gums are wiped after every meal.
  • Avoid putting babies to bed with a bottle or coating pacifiers with jelly or honey.
  • Remember to brush your child’s teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice a day. Consult a pediatrician or dentist about when to use fluoride toothpaste if the child is under 2 years old.
  • Limit sugary drinks, candy, cookies, and fruit snacks. Encourage more veggies.
  • Schedule their first dental visit after their first tooth appears or by their first birthday.
A teenage girl puts toothpaste on a toothbrush.

Beyond Baby Teeth

Kids are usually eager to grow up and act like adults. Care for your teeth well and be an example for how they should treat their adult teeth as those start coming in. They should:

  • Use fluoride toothpaste  This is the best way to combat tooth decay. Studies have shown it’s 33% more effective than non-fluoride toothpaste. Everyone should brush for two minutes, moving to different parts of the mouth. Adults should supervise children’s brushing habits until they’re old enough to brush alone.
  • Be consistent  Ideally kids would brush after each meal to get rid of harmful bacteria that could hurt teeth. They should minimally brush each morning before school and each night before bed.
  • Floss  Flossing at night cleans out the spaces between teeth that are hard to reach. It also removes plaque when you start at the gum line. Everyone should floss.
  • See the dentist  The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children have two checkups per year. Schedule their next visit if you can’t remember the last time they went.
  • No need for whitening toothpaste  Most active whitening toothpastes have chemicals that can wear down the protective outer layer on teeth.
  • Pay attention  Get your child to the dentist if they say their teeth hurt. It could be an infection that can spread from the tooth to other parts of the mouth or head.

A Reason to Smile

Following these steps will get your kids on the path to happier teeth.

AltaMed makes it easy to protect your family’s dental health. Checkups are available at the same locations where you get medical care, women’s health services, and the other services your family needs to grow healthy. Schedule an appointment at (888) 499-9303.

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It’s National Children’s Dental Health Month