Dental professionals nationwide recognize February as National Children’s Dental Health month. Dentists observe this month in particular to increase awareness and promote healthy dental habits. Although largely preventable, Dental Caries (tooth decay) continues to be the most prevalent chronic disease in both children and adults. The ADA released a statement in March of 2015 stating: “While treating dental disease is critical, prevention is the ultimate answer.”
Below are a few steps parents can take to prevent tooth decay and ensure their children’s dental health.
Brush Twice A Day: The ADA recommends brushing 2 minutes 2 times per day and flossing one time per day. It is especially important that parents supervise their children until they are of an age where they can do it properly and consistently. Toddlers especially, may resist the morning and evening dental hygiene routines, but don’t let that deter you. Thankfully, there are videos, games, songs and now Apps to help make brushing time more fun.
Floss Once A Day: According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, only 7% of children floss daily. This is in spite of the fact that flossing is one of the primary means of fighting tooth decay. Most cavities begin between the teeth, where a toothbrush simply cannot go. Flossing once a day, preferably before bed is key in fighting decay.
Avoid Sugar: Sugar feeds bacteria in your mouth and turns into acid that, when allowed to sit on the teeth for long periods, eats away at the surface of the teeth. This makes them more susceptible to cavities. Avoiding sweets and sugary drinks is one way to combat decay, but if you do allow a sweet treat, make sure your child consumes it in one sitting and not slowly throughout the day. If he/she is not able to brush right away, drinking water and even chewing sugar free gum with Xylitol will help wash away the acid from the teeth.
Eat Healthy Foods: Healthy foods are not just good for your body but also your teeth. Besides avoiding sweets, starchy foods are also ones to stay away from because those foods tend to stick to the teeth and turn into acid that decays the teeth. Dairy foods like cheese and yogurt contain calcium that helps keep your teeth strong. Crunchy fruits and veggies like apples, carrots and celery are great healthier snacks. They are not only nutritious but also help wash away food that is stuck on the teeth.
Visit Your Family Dentist: Visiting your dentist twice a year is key to combating tooth decay. The thorough cleanings help remove plaque that regular brushing and flossing missed and the exams allow the dentist to check for any dental issues you may not have noticed.
Following these steps year round is key in fighting tooth decay and ensuring your families dental health. Allow this month of February to be a friendly reminder to review your family’s dental hygiene routines and eating habits. Make adjustments as needed and partner with your kid’s dentist to protect your family’s smiles.
Mississippi Smiles Dentists are MS Licensed General Dentists