It’s National Children’s Dental Health Month and Here are Six Steps to a Lifetime of Healthy Smiles
By: Dr. John Luther, Chief Dental Officer and Senior Vice President, Dental Management, DentaQuest
February is not just for Valentine’s Day and cold winter weather - it’s also National Children’s Dental Health Month!
While we often focus on the importance of kids’ oral health in our work (and on this blog) we wanted to take a moment to recognize the importance of this month, and of promoting steps that can help protect the next generation of teeth.
The need for better education and care is clear:
- In the United States, 28% of preschoolers and 51% of 6-11 year olds have cavities.
- American children lose 52 million school hours due to oral health problems each year.
- Dental disease is the most common chronic disease in children in the U.S.- even more common than asthma.
From the Peach State Health Plan, our partner in Georgia, here are some simple steps that will help you set your kids up to have a lifetime of healthy teeth:
- Go see the dentist! There is a misconception that you don’t need to worry about healthy habits until permanent teeth are in. In reality, it begins well before that – cavity-causing bacteria can impact a lifetime of dental health, beginning with the first baby tooth. It’s important to see a dentist at least twice a year, even when those teeth just begin to grow in.
- Got fluoride? Believe it or not, fluoride is a crucial part of having healthy teeth - every $1 invested in fluoride saves $38 in treating tooth decay. It’s vital to not only have fluoride in your water, but to also use toothpase with fluoride. Many families are always on the go, so if you give your kids a lot of bottled water, make sure it has fluoride included.
- Ask your kids’ dentist about sealants. Dentists can apply sealants to permanent molars when a child is 5-6 years old – before tooth decay even begins - providing a thin layer of protective plastic coating to teeth.
- Snack smart. Many snacks kids love – from cookies to potato chips – are high in sugar and starch, which weaken tooth enamel. While its best to limit snacking between meals, be sure to reach for a healthy snack like yogurt, fruit or veggies.
- Take two! Everyone should brush their teeth twice a day for two minutes each time. Since two minutes can be an eternity for kids, play their favorite tune while you help them brush their teeth.
- Break the thumb-sucking habit. While most kids outgrow thumb sucking, dental problems can occur when kids start to get their permanent teeth and still suck their thumbs. Ask your pediatrician or dentist about ways to help break the habit.
We hope that these steps will help you promote oral health with your kids during this special month and beyond!
And we’d like to say thank you to our partners in Georgia for these excellent pointers. To learn more about the Peach State Health Plan, and some of the innovative work the team there is doing with Emory University, visit: http://www.pshpgeorgia.com/