(Salt Lake City) - For those who think cavities affect only school-aged kids, think again. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry Association says about 40% of children ages 2 through 5 have cavities. This may be a sign that children are either not brushing enough, or aren’t brushing the right way. But there are many things parents and caregivers can do to prevent tooth decay in children.
The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) Oral Health Program (OHP) recommends parents start cleaning baby’s mouth even before the first tooth pushes through the gum. “The human mouth is full of billions of bacteria,” says the program’s Michelle Martin, RDH. “Sugar, acid and bacteria are what start the process of decay,” Michelle adds. “So wet a soft, clean washcloth and clean the tooth and the gums every day. When a few more teeth start coming in, that’s when you buy an infant brush and use it for two minutes twice a day on every surface of every tooth.”
Other important tips for infants and children include:
• Parents should brush their child’s teeth. It’s ok for the child to practice brushing daily with a parent’s help.
• When children are old enough to tie their shoes, they’re ready to brush their teeth on their own.
• Remind children they don’t need to brush hard. Instead, show them how to brush softly in a circular motion. Electric and battery-powered toothbrushes are great for helping to remove plaque.
• Avoid giving children sodas and other sugary drinks. Encourage more water.
• Use only water in sippy cups.
• Everyone in the family should floss once a day. Place a container of it in the shower and encourage everyone to floss there.
• Don’t share spoons or forks with children. Bacteria spread that way.
• NEVER put a child to bed with a bottle. The sugar in milk starts the process of decay. NEVER put anything in a bottle but milk, water or formula.
February is Children’s Dental Health month, and experts say it’s a reminder that children of all ages need to be good caretakers of their teeth. Kim Michelson, DDS, State Dental Director, Utah Department of Health, says tooth decay is the most common chronic disease among children ages 6 to 11 years. “The good news," Michelson says, "is it’s very preventable if you just brush and floss your teeth daily.” Michelson recommends children see their dentist every six months, starting at age one.
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