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Do you know how dental health care is affecting your kids? According to the National Education Association’s website, approximately 51 million hours of school are missed by American students due to oral health problems each year. These absences are mostly due to severe mouth pain, but can also include illness caused by oral bacteria and recovery time after major oral health treatments. Studies have shown that students who experience oral health pain are “4x more likely to have lower grade point averages” than their fellow, pain-free classmates. This is a serious problem. Educating our children and giving them the skills they need to succeed in the future should be a priority. When a student misses class due to oral health, they miss the opportunity to develop their reading, math, writing, problem solving, and teamwork skills. It’s the students who chronically miss school due to poor health that suffer the most. February is National Children’s Dental Health Awareness Month. Our goal is to help parents understand the importance of instilling good oral hygiene habits in their children to give them their best chance of a successful future.

In a recent feature published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it was stated that over 19% of children ages 2-19 are living with untreated dental caries. That’s 19% of our children who are living with an oral health problem that can easily be avoided. Preventing dental caries before they occur is the best way to ensure your child’s total health. One of the techniques to do this is teaching children the proper way to brush their teeth for two minutes, twice a day. It’s important to remember that until they are 8 years old, most children lack the dexterity to effectively brush teeth on their own. In order to teach them this habit, parents must first act as role models, brushing their own teeth, then helping their children. Allowing kids to brush their own teeth is a great way for them to learn, as long as an adult helps them “finish the job”.

Other cavity prevention practices include: regular oral health exams, providing healthy snack options, and using fluoride to protect your child’s young enamel.

At Smiles Dental, we recommend children begin their oral health exams as young as two years old. Parents are welcome during the appointments. If your child is nervous, we are able to complete the exam with the child on his/her parent’s lap. Our entire team believes in a tell, show, do philosophy—We first tell the kids what we are going to do, then we show them the equipment and tools we will use, and lastly we do the exam. This is an effective way to qualm any fears or nerves in our little patients. Our doctors are also able to recommend when your child should begin fluoride treatments. This depends on several factors including local water fluoridation and the amount of fluoride present in your child’s toothpaste. We always invite you to ask our team about any concerns with using fluoride for your child.

Providing healthy snacks for your child also helps to prevent the development of caries. Studies have shown that children who consume high levels of sugary foods, including soda drinks, are at a greater risk for a number of health issues, including caries. The reason is because our saliva reacts with sugars and changes the pH balance within the mouth. This creates a breeding ground for bacteria. As bacteria spreads, it starts the decay process on your child’s teeth, which if not taken care of, can lead to cavities.

Regular dental health exams, healthy snacks, fluoride treatments, and a consistent brushing routine are all ways that you can help your kids maintain their dental health. Less oral health issues, means less days of school missed, which gives our children the opportunities they need to succeed. Talk to your dentist about your child’s dental health! They are there as a resource for you and want to help keep your whole family healthy and smiling!

Additional Resources and Education Materials:

National Education Association

American Dental Association

Colgate Oral and Dental Health Resource Center

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