Despite the fact that it’s almost entirely preventable, tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in children according to The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
February is Children’s Dental Health month.
The American Dental Association advises that a balanced diet, limiting snacks, brushing and flossing each day and regular dental check-ups are the keys to a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.
The ADA suggests consuming sugary foods and drinks with meals because saliva production increases during meals. That helps neutralize acid production and rinse food particles from the mouth.
The ADA reminds parents that tooth decay can occur as soon as baby teeth appear. Thus, because of prolonged exposure of a baby’s teeth to liquids, such as juice, milk or formula, which all contain sugar, cavities can occur when a baby is put to bed with a bottle or a sippy cup.
The American Dental Association also says that it is beneficial for the first dental visit to occur within six months of the appearance of the first tooth, and no later than the child’s first birthday.
However, not everyone has access to dental care. According to the St. Louis chapter of Give Kids a Smile, dental disease prevents millions of children from being able to sleep, eat properly, pay attention in school, or simply smile. School-based dental sealant and fluoride mouth rinse programs, as well as water fluoridation, help, but states are continuing to look at how to fill the gaps in dental care for kids.