Teach children good dental hygiene

Feb. 19, 2007
Statistics show prevalence of dental decay in children.

Dental decay is a serious health concern that affects children in staggering numbers. It is the most common, and the most preventable, disease in children.

Here are some startling statistics regarding the overwhelming prevalence of dental decay affecting children:

*Among children, dental decay is the single most common chronic disease, it is five times more common than asthma, and seven times more common than hay fever.

*Nearly 1 in 5 children 2-4 years old have visible tooth decay.

*Dental decay affects about half of all second- graders (ages 6-8) and more than 80 percent of children by late adolescence.

*An estimated 4 to 5 million children experience dental disease severe enough to cause chronic dental pain. This pain leads to difficulty eating, speaking, socializing and learning.

*More than 51 million school hours are lost each year due to dental-related illness.

*Women with severe gum disease are seven times more likely to have a premature delivery and a low birth weight baby.

Here are some solutions on how to prevent dental decay in our community's children:

1. Begin brushing a child's teeth as soon as the first tooth erupts into the mouth, which is usually about 6 months of age. Toothpaste is not necessary until the child is older.

2. Children should be brought to the dentist by age 1 or when the first tooth erupts into the mouth. This enables the dental provider to instruct the parent/guardian on how to care for the teeth and gums and to give the parent/guardian nutritional counseling which may prevent dental decay from starting.

3. Stop the bottle at age 1.

4. Never put a baby or child to bed with a bottle or cup containing anything other than water.

5. For children who cannot yet spit, use a non-fluoride toothpaste. (If swallowed, fluoride can cause stomach upset and is toxic in high doses.)

6. Use only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.

7. A baby or child's teeth must be brushed and flossed every day without exception. Parents/guardians must help with this process until the child's motor skills have developed fully. Ask your dental provider for help in determining this age, as every child is different.

8. Limit sugary drinks and snacks. Bacteria in the mouth use this sugar to create acids, which then cause tooth decay.

9. Visit your dentist every six months.

It is much easier to prevent dental problems than to fix them.