February is National Children’s Dental Health Month and many people are unaware of the important role early dental care plays in children’s overall health. The American Dental Association recommends that parents take action early to insure the health of their children’s teeth because attitudes and habits established at an early age are critical in maintaining good oral health throughout life.
The ADA recommends regular checkups, including a visit to the dentist within six months of the eruption of the first tooth, and no later than the child’s first birthday. Preventive care such as cleanings and fluoride treatment provide your child with “smile” insurance. Routine dental exams uncover problems that can be treated in the early stages, when damage is minimal and restorations may be small. When necessary, X-rays are taken to see how the teeth are developing and to spot hidden decay.
Baby bottle tooth decay can destroy your child’s teeth. It occurs when a child is frequently exposed to sugary liquids such as milk, including breast milk, fruit juice and other sweet liquids. The ADA recommends the following steps to prevent your child from getting baby bottle tooth decay.
Begin clearing your baby’s mouth during the first few days after birth. After every feeding, wipe the baby’s gums with a damp washcloth or gauze pad to remove plaque.
Never allow your child to nurse or breast feed for prolonged periods and don’t give him or her a bottle with milk, formula, sugar water or fruit juice during naps or at night in bed.
Encourage children to drink from a cup by their first birthday. Discourage frequent use of a training cup. Help your child develop good eating habits early and choose sensible, nutritious snacks.
Any child involved in a recreational activity, such as soccer, hockey, football, roller blading, riding a scooter and even bicycling should wear a mouth protector. There are “stock” mouth protectors available in stores and a better-fitting variety, which are custom fitted by your dentist. Ask your dentist about using a mouth protector.
Knowing how to handle your child’s dental emergency can mean the difference between saving or losing a tooth.
Knocked-Out Tooth: Hold the tooth by the crown and rinse off the root of the tooth in water if it’s dirty. Gently insert and hold the tooth in its socket or put the tooth in a cup of milk and get to the dentist.
Toothache: Rinse your mouth with warm water to clean it out, then floss gently. If the pain persists, contact your dentist.
Bitten Lip or Tongue: Clean the area and apply cold compresses to reduce swelling. If bleeding doesn’t stop, go to a hospital immediately.