In recognition of February as National Children's Dental Health Month, parents are encouraged to instill good dental hygiene habits in their children at an early age. Tooth decay affects children in the United States more than any other chronic infectious disease. In McLean County, more than 40% of third-grade students have experienced a cavity.
Baby teeth are important for chewing food and speaking properly. Untreated tooth decay causes pain and infections that may lead to problems that affect eating, speaking, playing, and learning.
To Protect Your Baby's Teeth
Do not put your baby to bed with a bottle or sippy-cup filled with milk, formula, juice or sweetened drink or even sleep at night at the breast. If your child must have a bottle to sleep, fill it with plain drinking water.
Do not dip a pacifier in honey, syrup or anything with sugar, such as soda pop, fruit juice, Kool-Aid, sugar water, milk or formula.
Clean your baby's teeth after each feeding and before bedtime with a clean washcloth, gauze pad or a soft infant toothbrush.
Teach your child to drink from a cup by 6 months of age and be weaned by 1 year.
To Protect Your Toddler's & Children's Teeth
Teach your children to brush their teeth twice a day, and floss every day. The earlier you instill healthy dental hygiene habits, the better.
Use toddler toothpaste for children less than 1 year old. Teach children to spit out the toothpaste and rinse well after brushing. Do not use adult fluoride toothpaste for children until they are able to spit it out.
Supervise brushing. Brush your child's teeth twice a day until your child has the skill to handle the toothbrush alone. Continue to closely monitor brushing.
It's important to schedule your child's first visit to a dentist before 2 years of age. It's a good way to introduce a positive attitude toward visiting the dentist, rather than waiting until there is something wrong. Children should not fear the dentist, but they are more likely to if their first visit is unpleasant.
The best dental care is proactive, so schedule a checkup with your child's dentist every six months.