February is recognized as National Children’s Dental Health Month. Sponsored by the American Dental Association (ADA) and the ADA Foundation, thousands of dental professionals, healthcare providers, and educators come together to promote the benefits of good oral health to children, their caregivers, teachers and many others.1
Why Baby Teeth Matter
Baby teeth are very important to your child’s health and development. These teeth allow your child to chew, speak, smile and maintain placement for permanent teeth that are still developing under the gums.2 If a tooth is lost too early due to decay or infection, the permanent teeth can drift into the empty space and can make teeth crooked or crowded.2 In providing children with adequate oral care, children can develop the skills to continue proper oral health during adult years. The maintenance of optimal dental care and the absence of gum disease should result in fewer cases of infections in the heart.3 In addition, gum infections seem to be found more frequently in patients with heart disease.4
How to Care for Your Child’s Teeth
When to Schedule the First Dental Appointment5
According to the ADA, a child’s first dentist appointment should be scheduled within 6 months of the first tooth appearing or no later than your child’s first birthday. This appointment will not only assess your child’s oral health and make recommendations on cleaning technique and habits, but it will also establish a routine for your child to become comfortable with the visits. The ADA recommends the following to ensure positive childhood visits:
Importance of Fluoride
Fluoride is a mineral found naturally in rivers, lakes, and oceans.5 With appropriate use, fluoride has been shown to be safe and effective in preventing and controlling cavities in the United States and other developed countries.4 In addition, low levels of fluoride in plaque and saliva will decrease softening of the enamel on teeth and can even strengthen already weakened enamel.4 Because of this, many communities have added fluoride to the water supply to be sure all members of the community can share in the increased oral benefits provided by this mineral. If your city water supply is not fluorinated, or if your child mostly drinks bottled water, he or she may be at higher risk for tooth decay.4 You can check with your pediatrician or dentist to see if your child might benefit from a fluoride supplement.
Give Kids a Smile Day – February 5th
With the support of the ADA Foundation’s Give Kids A Smile program, launched nationally by the American Dental Association in 2003, more than five million underserved children have received free oral health services over the last 13 years.7 In 2013, only 39% of children with Medicaid coverage received dental care, while 62% of children with Private Dental Benefit coverage received dental care.8 For the past 11 years, the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry has hosted free, comprehensive dental clinics to children identified during routine health screenings at local elementary schools. At last year’s event, 96 children received an exam, cleaning and fluoride treatment, and if needed, sealants, restorative care and oral surgery.9 Many of these children at the UMKC event, and all across the country, do not have access to regular dental care and suffer from cavities, decay, and infections. Programs like these provide important health benefits to children in our community who may not be able to afford dental care. Click here http://www.freedentalcare.us/ to find free or reduced cost dental care in your area.
1. February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. http://www.ada.org/en/public-programs/national-childrens-dental-health-month/. American Dental Association. Accessed 3 October 2016.
2. Baby Teeth. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/b/baby-teeth. American Dental Association. Accessed 5 October 2016.
3. Lockhard PB, Brennan MT, Thornhill M, et al. Poor oral hygiene as a risk factor for infective endocarditis–related bacteremia. Journal of the American Dental Association. 2009; 140: 1238-1244.
4. Demmer RT, Desvarieux M. Periodontal infections and cardiovascular disease. Journal of the American Dental Association. 2006; 137(10 supplements): 14S-20S.
5. Healthy Habits. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/babies-and-kids/healthy-habits. American Dental Association. Accessed 5 October 2016.
6. Guideline on Fluoride Therapy. American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Reference Manual. 2015/16: 37(6); 176-179.
7. Helping Children Through Give Kids A Smile. http://www.ada.org/en/public-programs/give-kids-a-smile. American Dental Association. Accessed 3 October 2016.
8. Missouri’s Oral Health Care System. http://www.ada.org/en/science-research/health-policy-institute/oral-health-care-system/missouri-facts. American Dental Association. Accessed 3 October 2016.
9. School Hosts Annual “Give Kids a Smile. https://dentistry.umkc.edu/alumni/GKAS2016/kidsmile.shtml. Curators of the University of Missouri. Accessed 5 October 2016.
10. National Children’s Dental Health Month (image). http://www.concorde.edu/blog/national-childrens-dental-health-month. Concorde Career Colleges, 10 February 2015. Accessed 3 October 2016.