Each February, the American Dental Association (ADA) sponsors the National Children's Dental Health Month to raise awareness about the importance of oral health. This year’s campaign, “Get A Gold Medal Smile,” aims to help parents give their children a healthy mouth for a lifetime.
The key to getting and maintaining “A Gold Medal Smile” begins from the moment baby teeth begin appearing in your child’s mouth, which can be as early as six months of age. Parents should start by wiping baby teeth with a soft cloth, or lightly brushing with an extra soft toothbrush after feedings. When putting your child to bed, be sure you only fill their bottles or sippy cups with water. Juices and milk contain sugars and acids that are harmful to a child’s teeth and can cause tooth decay.
Plaque is an invisible film containing many different types of bacteria and it is continually forming in the mouth. Some of these bacteria are helpful to the mouth. However, others can cause tooth decay. The bad bacteria feed on the sugars and sweets found in the snacks that your child eats, and then produces acid that causes decay if it is left on their teeth.
As your child gets older, it is important to brush their teeth twice a day for a minimum of two minutes. It is also crucial to floss their teeth at least once daily. You should continue to perform the brushing and flossing for your child until he or she is old enough to effectively do it by him or herself. For most children, this will be around the age of eight. Younger children may not enjoy having their teeth brushed and flossed, but it is important to establish the routine. Once your child knows the routine, he or she will be more likely to embrace it. To help your child develop good brushing and flossing techniques, have them brush their teeth first, then provide a follow-up brushing to ensure everything was brushed thoroughly. Be sure to encourage them. Let your child know they did a good job!
It is critical to remember that flossing is just as important as brushing. The older your child gets, the closer the spacing between their teeth becomes. Generally, toothbrush bristles cannot reach in between teeth, which means bacteria will continue to grow there. Dental floss and floss picks are great tools for both parents and kids, making it easy to get in between the teeth to remove harmful bacteria. If your child’s gums are bleeding, that means they are not healthy. Flossing daily will result in much tougher, healthier gums.
Fluoride toothpaste is essential in strengthening and protecting enamel, and should be used as soon as your child is able to spit. Once the enamel is gone, it cannot be re-grown, and a cavity is likely to form. Cavities can cause your child great pain, and if left alone, may result in him or her losing the tooth.
Although oral care for your child at home is important in promoting a healthy mouth, visits to the dental office for professional cleanings and checkups are even more important. Every six months, you should take your child to the dentist. There, the dental hygienists can provide thorough cleanings and fluoride treatments, while the dentist can examine your child’s teeth and fix any problems such as cavities.
Children start getting their first adult teeth, the ones that need to last forever, at age six. Parents need to establish good oral hygiene habits for their kids at an early age so they may enjoy a healthy mouth for a lifetime. So as the National Children's Dental Health Month raises awareness about the importance of oral health this February, help your child “Get A Gold Medal Smile.”