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Oregon Family Magazine

Taking Care of Young Teeth

02/25/2012 01:31PM ● By Anonymous
Healthy teeth and a healthy mouth give children more than just a beautiful smile. A healthy mouth supports overall health, and it can help children perform better in school. But far too many children have preventable oral health problems far too young.

Tooth decay affects more than 25 percent of American children 2 to 5 years old, and half of children 12 to 15 years old – that’s more than any other chronic infectious disease, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Left untreated, tooth decay causes pain and infection, which can lead to problems in eating, speaking, playing, and even learning.

There is plenty that parents and caregivers can do to help prevent tooth decay and other oral diseases.

First Things First – The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) says that children should have their first visit to a pediatric dentist no later than their first birthday. The first tooth usually comes in between 6 and 12 months of age – schedule an appointment and get started on good oral health care from the beginning. The AAPD says that, in one study, children that saw a dentist before their first birthday had dental costs that were 40 percent lower in the first five years than costs for children who had not seen a dentist by their first birthday.

Establish Good Habits – Kids need help establishing good dental care habits. Make sure they brush twice a day, floss every day, follow a healthy diet and visit the dentist every six months for checkups and cleanings.

  • Using a soft-bristled brush, kids should brush for at least two minutes. Some power toothbrushes have a built-in timer. Before teeth appear, clean baby’s gums twice a day with a soft cloth or baby toothbrush and water.
  • Parents should floss young children’s teeth once a day, until they can do a good job themselves, at least until age 7 or 8.
  • Make sure they eat foods with vitamin C, which helps gum tissue stay healthy, and calcium, for strong teeth.
Be Alert – Watch for signs of oral health problems. Talk to your dentist if you see warning signs such as:
  • Changes in performance at school – listening, concentrating and learning.
  • Sucking on cheeks or lips.
  • Reluctance to smile.
  • Problems chewing foods.
  • Problems sleeping.
  • Aching teeth or gums.
You can also talk to your dentist about sealants, which can be applied to the chewing surfaces of teeth. Sealants are one more way you can help prevent cavities and keep your kids’ smiles healthy and beautiful. For more information about kids’ dental health, visit Ameritas Insight.

Photo Courtesy Getty Images