February is Children’s Dental Health Month and is a good time to remind parents about the importance of early childhood dental visits and establishing an oral hygiene routine at a young age.
Did you know decay can occur as soon as teeth appear? Tooth decay impacts more than oral health. Bacteria in the mouth can also spread to the body and eventually contribute to heart disease, stroke and more.
A healthy smile means a happy and healthy child. Oral health tips for parents include:
1. Establish a dental relationship early. Schedule a dental visit for your child within six months of the first tooth eruption or by your child’s first birthday.
2. Limit bottles at bedtime to ONLY water. Napping or sleeping with juice or milk can cause childhood decay due to sugars from the liquids staying in direct contact with the teeth for prolonged periods.
3. Clean pacifiers properly. Cavity-causing bacteria can be passed to children from adults. Do not clean pacifiers or utensils with your own mouth and then give them to children.
4. Clean gums while teeth are erupting. Baby teeth are at risk for decay as soon as they appear.
5. Prevent bad habits. Thumb-sucking and pacifiers after age two can create crowded, crooked teeth or bite problems.
6. Play it safe. If your child plays a sport, make sure they wear a mouthguard. Mouthguards can help prevent injury to the jaw, mouth and teeth, and are significantly less expensive than the cost to repair an injury.
7. Select healthier treats. Avoid giving your child treats that are sour (high in acidity, which erodes tooth enamel), sticky or chewy (leaves sugars directly on the teeth for prolonged periods). Healthier snack options include cereal bars, pretzels or granola bars.
If left untreated, even at the earliest stages of life, tooth decay can have serious implications for a child’s long-term health.
It’s never too early to establish good dental hygiene habits, which can contribute to a long and healthy life for both you and your children. Contact your dentist for more information.