Brush Up on Dental Health

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. This month, we not only remind kids to keep their teeth healthy but also remind parents to help keep their child on track.

It is never too early to take your child to the dentist! The American Association of Pediatric Dentists suggests that a dental home be set up by the time their child’s first tooth erupts, or by their first birthday.  Baby teeth stay in a child’s mouth for 8-10 years. They affect how a child speaks, chews, and smiles, and also save space for adult teeth. Brushing and flossing both keep teeth clean and stop decay.

Kids who suffer from poor oral health are 3 times more likely to miss school because of dental pain. It can also mean lower grades. About 51 million hours of school are missed each year due to oral disease. 60% or 3 out of 5 of children have tooth decay by the time they reach kindergarten. It is the most common childhood disease, 4 times more common than asthma and 3 times more likely than childhood obesity according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry! It is also almost fully preventable.

Oral Health for babies:

  • Wipe gums twice a day with a soft, clean cloth in the morning after the first feeding, and right before bed.
  • As soon as teeth come in, start brushing twice each day with a soft, small bristled toothbrush and plain water.
  • Visit the dentist by your baby’s first birthday to spot signs of problems early.
  • Talk to your doctor or dentist before using toothpaste with fluoride.

Oral Health for Children

  • Make sure they brush their teeth at least twice each day with toothpaste.
  • Help your child brush their teeth until they have good brushing habits. Children under the age of 6 should use only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Take care to make sure they spit, rather than swallow, after brushing.
  • Ask your dentist when sealants are needed to stop tooth decay.
  • Have check-ups with a dentist at least every 6 months, every 3 months if you can.
  • Use dental floss. Children can use fun floss picks to make flossing easier.
  • Choose healthy foods and snacks. Try not to eat fruit snacks or other sticky candies. Choose snacks that have calcium like cheese, low-sugar yogurt, or fruits and veggies.
  • Rethink your drink! Drink lots of water! Water also helps to rinse away any sugar that leads to cavities. Stay away from fruit juice, sports drinks, and sodas. Acid and sugar eat away tooth enamel, leading to tooth decay. Even if you choose sugar-free, the acid can still add to the chance of decay.
  • Replace your toothbrushes often every 3-4 months, and after you have been sick.

Four Corners Forever Smiles program offers preventative dental care in some daycares, preschools, schools, and assisted living / long-term care facilities.  This is not meant to replace routine dental visits but can help watch for decay in-between visits.  Check with Four Corners, or your school nurse to ask if Four Corners Forever Smiles can plan a visit to your school soon.

If you have questions about your child’s dental health, talk to your dentist. Check with your school nurse to see what kind of dental health program your child’s school offers. You can learn more about keeping your child’s teeth healthy at Healthy Mouths Healthy Lives https://2min2x.org/. You can also learn more about oral health as a part of your overall well-being here: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/dental/art-20047475.

If you need help finding a dental home or finding a way to pay for dental care, contact Four Corners Health Department. We have a team of Community Health Workers and Public Health Nurses who may be able to help you find an answer. You can contact us by phone at (402) 362-2621 or (877) 337-3573 or by email at info@fourcorners.ne.gov.