February is National Children’s Dental Health month. Established as a one day event in Ohio in 1941, the concept has grown to a month long nationwide celebration. Focusing on raising awareness and preventive oral health care in our children, one of the goals is to help develop good attitudes and habits at an early age which are critical in maintaining good oral health throughout life.

Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease

You may have thought asthma, obesity or allergies would rank #1 as the most common chronic childhood disease, but you would be wrong. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, tooth decay is number one. Surprisingly, it is five times more common than asthma and occurs four times more often than childhood obesity.

Poor dental health affects school work

According to The Center for Health and Health Care in Schools, “dental problems have a big effect on the American school day.” It has been noted that students lose more than 51 million school hours every year because of dental related illnesses. Some children have never seen a dentist by the time they have reached kindergarten.

Protect your child’s smile while playing sports

Children’s teams sports are a very important part of many American communities, however as many as 39 percent of dental injuries occur while kids are playing sports. Most of those injuries occur to a child’s front teeth. There are forms of protection such as helmets and mouthguards. There are many different types of mouthguards available from the inexpensive “boil and bite” to a professionally fabricated guard made by your dentist. Regardless of which you opt for, choose one to save your child’s mouth from a traumatic injury. If such an accident does happen, the most important thing to do is get to a dentist as fast as possible.

Consumption affects both oral health and overall health

Most parents catch themselves saying at least once, “Don’t eat that, it will rot your teeth.” Now more than ever, kids are faced with a wide array of food choices, from the fresh organic produce to sugar filled processed convenience meals and snacks. What children eat obviously affects their overall health and well-being, but it also has a direct affect on their teeth. Below are some ways to help improve your child’s oral health and reduce tooth decay:

• Limit sugary foods and drinks to meal time.

• Limit snacks. If your child craves a snack, offer them a piece of fruit and try to stay away from anything sticky, such as raisins.

• If your child is a gum chewer, make it sugarless, sweetened with xylitol not aspartame. Chewing sugarless gum after eating can increase saliva which helps wash away food and decay-producing acid.

• Monitor beverage consumption. Instead of soft drinks all day, children also should drink water and milk.

• Help your children develop good brushing and flossing habits.

• Schedule regular dental check-ups (2 times per year). Brushing and flossing and getting regular dental visits are important ways for children to keep their teeth and gums healthy for a lifetime.

Creating awareness is the first step to improving dental healthcare. National Children’s Dental Health Month is the perfect opportunity to learn a bit more about children’s oral health needs.

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