By BethAnn Cameron, Health Educator, U.S. Army Public Health CommandFebruary 3, 2014
Seeing a child's BIG happy smile lets parents know that all is right in world. We get excited when babies get their first teeth. We want our children to grow up strong and healthy. But unfortunately, many parents are unaware that a child cannot be truly healthy without a healthy smile (mouth).
February is National Children's Dental Health Month. Children with dental problems have problems eating, have trouble concentrating in class and miss more days of school than children with healthy mouths. By eating a healthy diet, avoiding added sugars, brushing and flossing, and having regular dental visits, children can avoid cavities and get a super smile.
Parents can get their child off to the right start by caring for their child's mouth--this is just as important as caring for the rest of the body. Cleaning teeth and gums removes a sticky film of plaque that contains harmful bacteria that cause tooth decay. Help your child to develop good habits at an early age.
Here are some tips to ensure your child has strong, healthy teeth and gums for a lifetime:
•Prevent cavities in babies by wiping their gums with a clean, wet gauze pad or soft washcloth after each feeding (breast or bottle-fed).
•Babies should not be put to bed or allowed to fall asleep with a bottle of milk, formula or juice.
•Avoid using sweet foods or sweetened drinks to reward your child. This includes beverages that are acidic such as sodas, juices, lemonade and sports drinks.
•Make your child's first dentist appointment as early as the first birthday. This appointment will get your child used to the dentist's chair and will educate you on good dental health techniques.
•Learn proper brushing and flossing techniques.
•Ask your dentist about dental sealants. They are a protective coating that helps prevent bacteria from causing tooth decay on the chewing surfaces of teeth.
•Protect your child's smile by ensuring mouth guards are used when playing sports--this will protect teeth from getting broken and protect the face from injury.
•Teach children to say no to tobacco. Tobacco can cause tooth decay, gum disease, tooth loss and oral cancer.
Here are some tips to raise awareness about National Children's Dental Health Month in your community:
•Ask health care providers to give oral health advice to their patients.
•Work with local schools and civic groups to provide presentations about oral health.
•Ask dentists to sponsor a display or a dental health exhibit at a health fair using posters and hands-on demonstrations at a library, bank or shopping center.
Finally, use these keys for a lifetime of good oral health to get that super smile for you and your family:
•Eat a healthy diet.
•Limit snacking between meals.
•Brush gently twice daily for two minutes.
•Floss each day.
•Get regular dental check-ups.
•Avoid tobacco use.