(KUTV) February is National Children’s Dental Health month. Unfortunately, dental decay is the most common contagious disease that kids face.
“Sixty percent of kids by the age of five will have dental decay in their mouth,” says Dr. Hans C. Reinemer with Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital.
Since dental decay can affect your child’s health and even speech, parents should address dental health early on. This means brining your children in to see the dentist by their first birthday. At your baby’s first appointment, the dentist will take a quick look in your child’s mouth.
“We will assess the development of the teeth. Are the teeth coming in okay? Do they look okay? Are there any early cavities that are forming already?” says Dr. Reinemer.
The dentist will then educate parents about specific oral health habits that can prevent dental decay such as what is appropriate for children to eat and also ways to establish a good oral health routine.
“The sequence should be a night time feeding, then brush teeth, then go to bed. Make sure a tooth brush is the last thing in a child’s mouth before they go to bed,” says Dr. Reinemer.
When brushing your baby’s teeth, always use an age appropriate tooth brush. This can be anything from an infant tooth brush or even a cloth to wipe off the teeth and gums. What you’re trying to do is clean the plaque and food debris off your child’s teeth and gums.
Since dental decay is often a contagious disease it’s extremely important that those around baby, such as mom and dad, also maintain good dental health.
“If a mom is struggling with dental health issues, then through kissing, contact, licking spoons, sharing a lot of things like that, you transfer the cavity causing bacteria from your mouth to your baby’s,” explains Dr. Reinemer.
Dr. Reinemer has a list of 9 things parents should brush up on to create a good dental health routine for their children:
- Encourage children to start drinking from a cup as they approach their first birthday. Children should never be put to bed with a bottle. At-will nighttime breast-feeding should be avoided after the first primary teeth begin to erupt. Drinking juice from a bottle should be avoided. When juice is offered, it should be in a cup and during meal times.
- Children should be weaned from the bottle at 12-14 months of age.
- Thumb sucking is perfectly normal for infants. Most children will stop by age 2 and it should be discouraged after age 4. Prolonged thumb sucking can create crowded, crooked teeth or bite problems. Pediatric Dentists can suggest ways to address a prolonged thumb sucking habit.
- Never dip a pacifier into honey or anything sweet before giving it to a baby.
- Limit grazing when it comes to food items. It's not just the type of food which can influence a child's risk of developing cavities, but more importantly, it's the frequency of eating. If your child is snacking or drinking sugary drinks all day, then they will be cavity prone all day.
- Young children should use an appropriate size toothbrush with a small brushing surface. A fluoride toothpaste is not necessary for children under two years of age. After the age of two, a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste at each brushing is appropriate. Young children should always be supervised while brushing and taught to spit out rather than swallow toothpaste if possible.
- Children who drink primarily bottled water may not be getting the fluoride they need. Check with your Pediatric Dentist about the need for fluoride supplements which will depend on several important things such as location, filtration, diet, and fluoride containing products currently being utilized in the home.
- Cavities are contagious! Parents and caregivers need to take care of their own teeth so that cavity causing bacteria are not as easily transmitted to children. Expectant mother should brush, floss and visit a dentist regularly. Don't clean pacifiers and eating utensils with your own mouth before giving them to children.
- Tooth decay is the #1 chronic infectious disease affecting children today. By age 5, approximately 60% of children will be affected by tooth decay. Have your child visit the pediatric dentist by age 1 and then every six months thereafter for a healthy mouth and teeth.