Every year the American Dental Association (ADA) promotes National Children’s Dental Health Month. This initiative was designed to promote oral health awareness among adults and children of all ages, races and economic backgrounds.

Dental caries otherwise known as cavities is an infectious disease that can be transmitted from mother to child. The bacteria that cause cavities are only present when teeth are in the mouth. Dental caries is the most prevalent disease in children. Each year, thousands of days of school are missed by school aged children due to dental pain. Below, you will find a few tips that will help prevent cavities and promote oral health.

Things you can do to improve your child’s dental health:

– Encourage children to eat a healthy, balanced diet. Often, children eat unhealthy snacks such as potato chips, candy and sodas that are high in sugar and acids. These foods can very quickly cause tooth decay.

– Monitor your child’s oral hygiene habits. Children 0-8 should be monitored by an adult while brushing. In order to encourage independence, parents should allow children (that are able) to brush first. Then the parent should inform the child that it’s “my turn”. The parent should instruct the child on how to brush. This should be performed with the parent standing behind the child. Both parent and child should be facing a mirror so the child can view the parent brushing their teeth properly.

– Check the nutritional facts on products before purchasing them. There are many products that market specifically to children. However, many of these products are not healthy. Many fruit drinks, which boast that they are 100 percent juice are also loaded with sugar. There are many fruit juice products on the market that have as much as 38g of sugar in a single serving. These drinks should only be consumed on a limited basis. In addition, parents should dilute these drinks with water to decrease the amount of sugar consumed.

– Eliminate sodas from your child’s diet. Sodas are high in sugar and acid. These drinks are a double threat because they wear away enamel via their high acid content. In addition, they make teeth more susceptible to cavities because of their high sugar content.

– Bring your child for their first dental visit by age 1. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children see a dentist no later than age 1. Establishing a dental relationship early is important to acclimate the child to seeing a dentist at a young age. The child will understand that visiting a dentist is a normal routine and should not be associated with fear. In addition, these dental well baby visits can be used to reinforce healthy dental behaviors with parents.

– Encourage the use of mouth guards when participating in sporting events. All contact sports are associated with an increased risk of dental trauma. The use of a mouth guard reduces the risk of severe dento-facial trauma during an unforeseen accident.

– Discourage children from developing oral habits early. Oral habits, in particular thumb sucking, are detrimental to a child’s bite. Thumb sucking leads to displacement of the permanent front teeth. If continued well throughout adolescence, the child’s teeth become permanently altered requiring braces as a corrective solution.

– Discourage adolescents from potentially harmful oral and facial piercings. Tongue piercings have been known to cause chips or fractures of teeth, especially front teeth.

– Do not put your child to bed with a bottle. Early Childhood Caries (ECC) better known as Baby Bottle Tooth Decay is caused by the sugars found in milk. While milk is a healthy drink choice, if children are put to bed with milk, the sugars in the milk stay in the mouth for 6-8 hours per day. This will cause the top baby teeth to rot.

And lastly, but most important, schedule a dental check up for your child every six months. As with most diseases, dental cavities can be simply treated when caught early. However, once a cavity becomes large and begins to cause pain, the options for treatment become limited and costly.

By following these simple tips, you can ensure your child has a healthy mouth.

Dr. Tonya Parris-Wilkins, DDS,

FAAHD, MAGD

Southside Family and

Cosmetic Dentistry, P.C.

Colonial Heights

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