02-01-2011 (Dayton, OH) -
A toothache for an adult can be an annoyance, but for kids it can affect many aspects of everyday life. February is National Children’s Dental Health Month and Dayton Children’s wants to remind parents that healthy dental habits for kids begin in the home.
When a child is in pain from dental problems, their ability to speak, eat, sleep or concentrate can be negatively affected, says Gordon Womack, DDS, medical director of pediatric dentistry at The Children’s Medical Center of Dayton.
While tooth decay is the single most chronic disease in children, 90 percent of it is preventable, Womack says. Lessening the use of sippy cups, teaching children to brush early and taking babies to pediatric dentists between 6 months and 1 year are three of the most important steps in improving a child’s dental health.
According to Womack, parents overuse sippy cups for the convenience of no spills, but in reality children should only use these while transitioning from bottle to cup.
“When children sip for extended periods on sugared beverages, they’re exposed to a higher risk of decay,” he says. “Sippy cups should only contain water unless it’s mealtime.”
Womack also encourages parents to teach children to brush by their first tooth. Even before that parents should brush their child’s gums twice a day with a soft cloth or baby toothbrush and water.
In addition, The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that a child’s first dental visit occur shortly after the first tooth erupts and no later than the child’s first birthday. But according to the 2005 National Survey of Children’s Health (NSHC), only 10 percent of 1-year-olds and about 24 percent of 2-year-olds had been taken for a preventive dental care visit in the past year.
Six decay-fighting tips
Preventing a child’s tooth decay doesn’t end after a dentist visit. Dr. Womack and Dayton Children’s recommend parents take the following preventative measures daily:
- Talk to your pediatric dentist about your child’s fluoride needs. Infants require fluoride to help developing teeth grow strong, and children who primarily drink bottled water may not be getting the fluoride they need.
- If you must put your child to sleep with a bottle, use nothing but water. Other beverages can damage teeth, leading to cavities.
- The best times for your child to brush are after breakfast and before bed.
- Limit snacking, which can increase a child’s risk of developing cavities.
- Limit candy. Sucking on candy is another way that kids can extend exposure to sugar. Limit sweets and the time it takes for kids to eat them, and make sure children brush afterward.
- Never dip a pacifier into honey or anything sweet before giving it to a baby.
According to Womack, cavities in baby teeth often increase the possibility of permanent teeth disease, which is why starting healthy dental habits early and in the home is crucial for a child’s health.
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