February is National Children’s Dental Health Month and we want to provide some useful tips and knowledge about children’s oral health.
Tooth decay is one of the most common chronic conditions children in the United States face. Untreated cavities can cause severe pain and lead to infections that can cause problems with eating, speaking, playing, and learning. Poor oral health can also eventually lead to missing school which could result in lower grades.
Infants are susceptible to tooth decay if they have been given pacifiers dipped in sugar, honey, juice, etc. Tooth decay can also begin when cavity-causing bacteria is passed from the saliva of a mother or care-giver to the baby’s mouth. This is likely to happen if someone cleans a pacifier in their mouth or shares a feeding spoon with the baby.
Children often develop a fear of visiting the dentist therefore it’s important to mold their views about dental visits and oral health positively.
Here are some useful tips to get your child excited about oral health
- Make oral health an important part of your daily routine. Try to make brushing teeth fun by creating a song they can hum or listen to while brushing. This is also a great way to teach them to take their time.
- Introduce books about visits to the dentist and oral health. Make it a routine to read a book before or after they brush their teeth, this creates excitement.
- Try brushing your teeth as a family. When children see an adult doing something they too will be influenced to do the same. If your little ones see that you like brushing your teeth, they’ll be more interested in brushing theirs.
- Allow children to choose the toothbrush they want. Whether it’s a toothbrush with their favorite TV character or their favorite color, offering that type of independence will make them feel good and make them want to keep brushing their teeth.
Tips on how to prepare your little one for their first dentist visit:
- Talk to your child and explain why oral health is important.
- Let them know what they can expect and avoid creating anxiety around the visit.
- Schedule the appointment at a time the child is well rested.
- Avoid using a visit to the dentist as a punishment or threat.
These tips are sure to help your little ones develop positive associations to dental health. The American Dental Association recommends that the first dental visit take place within six months after the first tooth appears, but no later than a child’s first birthday.
First 5 San Diego has partnered with Oral Health Providers through our program Oral Health Initiative to provide a variety of oral health services throughout San Diego County. These services include dental screenings, exams, treatment, care coordination, and oral health education for children ages 0-5 and pregnant women. For more information about our Oral Health Initiative you can visit our website or give us a call at 1-888-5 FIRST 5.
Most First 5 San Diego community events provide free bilingual books to community members which include the book, “Potter the Otter Visits the Dentist” in addition to stage 1 toddler toothbrushes.