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Children's Dental Health (February)

February is National Children's Dental Health Month. For the last 60 years, (since 1949), the American Dental Association (ADA) has sponsored National Children's Dental Health Month in February, to raise awareness about the importance of oral health in children as well as adults.

The ADA emphasizes that developing good habits at an early age and scheduling regular dental visits help children get a good start on a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums. Cavities in children can begin as soon as a child's (infant) first tooth appears. Early cavities are a significant public health problem in the general population, but appear more in the under-insured.

Children should be scheduled for their first dental appointment within six months of the appearance of their first tooth. Baby bottle tooth decay is one of the more severe problems. This happens when infants and toddlers are allowed to drink sugary liquids whenever they want, throughout the day or in bed. A well balanced diet is encouraged, following U.S. Department of Agriculture recommendations. Remember that beverages and foods high in sugars (juices, soft drinks, milks and simple starches) contribute to developing cavities. Children should finish their bedtime/naptime food or drink before going to bed.

Good dental hygiene habits should begin before the child's first tooth comes in. Wiping a baby's gums with a soft damp cloth after feedings helps to prevent the buildup of bacteria. When teeth appear, a soft children's toothbrush should be used twice a day. Fluoride toothpaste should be used at preschool-age, and a pea-sized amount of is all that is needed. Young children sometimes swallow most of the toothpaste, and swallowing too much fluoride toothpaste can cause permanent stains on their teeth.

The best way to help children learn and use proper oral health, is to set an example. When a parent or adult in a child's life models good tooth care, the young child will do the same.

Some information was obtained from the American Dental Association website at www.ada.org. Familydoctor.org contains additional information on oral care.

Information provided by Dana H. Breeding, RN Health Educator from Community Wellness, at Augusta Health. To contact her related to the above information, please call 332-4988 or 932-4988.