Did you know that dental issues are affecting your kids more than you know? According to the National Education Association’s website, approximately 51 million hours of school are missed by American students due to oral health problems each year. These absences are mostly due to severe mouth pain, but they can also include illness caused by oral bacteria and recovery time after major dental treatments. Studies have shown that students who experience oral health pain are four times more likely to have lower grade point averages than their fellow, pain-free classmates. This is a serious problem. We should make educating our children and giving them the skills they need to succeed in the future a priority. When a student misses class because of oral health problems, they miss the opportunity to develop their math, reading, writing, problem solving, and teamwork skills. The kids who chronically miss school because of poor health suffer the most.
February is National Children’s Dental Health Awareness Month, and our goal is to help parents understand the importance of teaching children good oral hygiene habits. If parents do so, it will give the children the best chance of a successful future.
According to a recent feature published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 19 percent of children ages 2-19 are living with untreated dental cavities. These children are suffering from an oral health problem that could have been easily avoided. Preventive dental care is the best way to ensure your child’s total health. One of the best ways to prevent dental problems is by teaching your child the proper way to brush their teeth for two minutes every morning and every night. Now remember, most children lack the dexterity to effectively brush their own teeth until they are about 8 years old. In order to teach your child this oral hygiene habit, you must first act as a role model by brushing your own teeth and then helping your child. Allowing your child to brush their own teeth is a great way for them to learn—just make sure they do a thorough and successful job doing so.
You can also help your child prevent dental issues by bringing them in for their regular dental checkups, providing healthy snack options, and using fluoride products to protect, nourish, and strengthen their teeth.
At our office, we recommend that you bring your child in for their first appointment by the time they are 2 years old. You are more than welcome to sit with your child during the appointments. You can even sit in the dental chair with your child is they are nervous or anxious! Our entire dental team believes in a “tell, show, do” philosophy. First, we tell your child what we are going to do. Second, we show them the equipment and the tools we will use. Third, we do the exam. This is a great way to calm the nerves and fears your child has about the dental office. During the appointment, our dentist will also inform you on the best time to begin fluoride treatments. This depends on several factors, like local water fluoridation and the amount of fluoride contained in your child’s toothpaste. We also encourage you to ask any questions you have during the appointment.
Providing healthy snacks for your child is another great way to prevent cavities. Studies have shown that children who eat and drink high levels of sugary foods and drinks, like soda, candy, and cookies, are more likely to suffer from a number of dental issues, especially tooth decay. When our children eat and drink these products, their saliva reacts to the sugars and it changes the pH balance within the mouth. This then creates a breeding ground for the bacteria in your child’s mouth, which promotes and begins the decay process on your child’s teeth. When not treated, it will lead to cavities.
A consistent and good oral hygiene routine, fluoride treatments, regular dental health exams, and healthy snacks are all great ways to help your child improve and maintain the health of their smile. The fewer oral health issues, the fewer days of school your child will miss, which gives your child the opportunities they need to succeed now and in the future. So, talk to your dentist about your child’s dental health! Your dentist is a resource for you and he wants to help you keep your entire family healthy and smiling!
Additional Resources and Education Materials:
National Education Association
American Dental Association
Colgate Oral and Dental Health Resource Center
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