February 20th, 2019
ACPeds Parent Talk

Keeping parents up to date on the latest news in child and teen health
National Children's Dental Health Month
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cavities are one of the most common chronic diseases of childhood in the United States.

  • About 1 of 5 (20%) children aged 5 to 11 years have at least one untreated decayed tooth.
  • 1 of 7 (13%) adolescents aged 12 to 19 years have at least one untreated decayed tooth.
Unless tooth decay is taken care of early on with appropriate treatment and preventative measures, tooth decay can become irreversible and even lead to infection of the teeth and gums and tooth loss. Fortunately, cavities and tooth decay are preventable by practicing good oral hygiene.
Preventing Tooth Decay and Cavities in Children
Newborns and Infants

  • Always clean your infant's gums, tongue (and budding teeth) after feeding with a moistened washcloth.
  • Never put your baby to bed with a bottle or prop a bottle in your baby’s mouth. This can cause “Bottle Rot”, a common type of tooth decay found in infants and toddlers.
  • Once teeth start to come in, it's a good idea to start weaning your child off the pacifier to avoid tooth decay. Thumb sucking should also be discouraged so as to avoid causing problems with the proper growth of the mouth and alignment of the teeth
  • Your child will most likely begin eating solid foods by 6 months. When introducing new foods and drinks to your baby, avoid sugary foods and acidic drinks (like fruit juices), especially those with artificial sweeteners, as often as possible.
  • At about age one, begin helping your child get used to a toothbrush. After feeding, help your child brush his teeth with an age-appropriate soft bristled toothbrush and warm water (no toothpaste).
Toddlers and Preschoolers

  • Continue limiting sugary foods and acidic drinks especially soft drinks. Bacteria in dental plaque change sugars into acids and acids soften and dissolve the minerals in tooth enamel, causing cavities.
  • According to the American Dental Association (ADA), children (and adults) should brush for at least 2-3 minutes, 2 times a day. You can get your child in the practice of brushing for the correct period of time by singing the "Alphabet Song" twice through at a normal speed for each half of your child's mouth.
  • At age two, you can begin using a small, pea-sized amount of ADA accepted, age appropriate toothpaste instead of just plain warm water.
Children and Adolescents

  • Once again, continue limiting your child or teen’s intake of sugary foods and acidic drinks. Aside from poor dental health, these foods and drinks can contribute to poor overall mental and physical health as well.
  • Continue encouraging your child or teen to brush for at least 2-3 minutes, 2 times a day with a soft bristled, age-appropriate, ADA accepted toothbrush and toothpaste.
  • Teach your children to avoid using their teeth for anything other than chewing food. When using one’s teeth to crack nuts, remove bottle tops or rip open packaging, the risk of chipping or even breaking a tooth is increased.
  • At this age, many children are active in sports, whether recreationally or with a team. Make sure your child’s teeth are protected from injury by ensuring your child wears a mouthguard or full-face helmet when playing sports.
General Tips for All Age Groups

  • Regularly monitor your child's dental health. Every once in a while, take a minute to examine your child's gums and teeth. Check for small white or brown spots as these are early signs of tooth decay. For older children and teenagers, encourage them to periodically do their own checks and make sure to do the same for yourself.
  • Choose a toothbrush with a small head for better access to back teeth and soft bristles since they are kinder on the gums.
  • Replace your toothbrush every 3 months, or sooner if the bristles are frayed. Not only does an old, worn toothbrush harbor germs and bacteria, it also won’t do a good job of cleaning your teeth.
  • Make sure that everyone in your family makes a visit to the dentist for regular check-ups. If you or your child experiences a toothache or bleeding gums, try getting an appointment as soon as possible so the dentist can help you get a hold of the situation before it gets any worse.

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