February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. Oral health is a major factor to overall health and it all begins at birth. The Academy of General Dentistry encourages parents to schedule their child’s first dental visit as early as one year of age or when they receive their first tooth. This begins an early introduction to good oral hygiene during infancy and stresses the importance of establishing a dental home for ongoing care.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of the most infectious diseases among children and teenagers is tooth decay. The most recent U.S. data reported by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry shows a prevalence of 55.7% of youth across all racial and economic demographics between two to eight years of age experienced tooth decay in 2016. This data drastically depicts the growing incidences among children and stands as an indication the importance of early dental visits. Parents are encouraged to schedule dental appointments for their children early to address additional dental problems such as teething, gum irritation, decay caused by bottle and pacifier sucking and teeth formation.
“Tooth decay in children is an early indicator that poor dental hygiene may become a lifetime habit, but the real message is that caries is a chronic disease that is 100% preventable” said Manuel A. Cordero DDS, CPH, MAGD, president, Academy of General Dentistry. “If we can engage the future parents during the critical stages of pregnancy and we present a chronological sequence of oral health care, prevention, nutrition and good early childhood habits, they will benefit and impact the health of our newborn populations for years to come. Establishing a strong relationship with a primary general dentist has benefits because we work with children and their parents to establish good oral health care when they are young. This helps fight against a range of maladies, since the first signs of many illnesses are often revealed in the mouth. Maintaining a healthy body includes taking care of your oral health on a regular basis.”
Developing an early habit of visiting a dentist can prove to be both economically and medically beneficial as a child ages into adulthood. Early dental visits increase the chances of detecting minor issues before they become major and costly problems. In addition, studies indicate that dental issues such as gum disease have been linked to cause other systemic health disparities such as heart disease that possibly will not be identified until later in life.
General dentists are the gatekeepers to oral health and it is the parent’s initial role to establish the foundation of a dental home for their children. It is also the parent’s role to promote healthy oral habits in between dental visits.
The AGD recommends that parents:
- After the initial visit and establishing a dental home base, parents should schedule the recommended two dental visits annually;
- For infants without teeth, parents should wipe baby gums at least twice a day.
- For toddlers parents should supervise teeth brushing and encourage the early practice of brushing a least twice a day.
- Limit foods and drinks with a high measure of sugar
- Schedule a dental visit as soon as a dental issues are identified