February is National Children’s Dental Health Month (NCDHM) – a great opportunity to discuss the benefits of good oral health, because developing good dental health habits, knowing what to look for as your child grows and when to take them to the dentist, helps children get a good start to a lifetime of health benefits.

It’s worth celebrating not just for a day, but for an entire month because our mouth is a window into our bodies. How we breathe, how we take care of our mouth, and what we put in our bodies is where overall health begins and shapes our habits and routines. 

While this is true any time of the year, it is especially important for parents to take care of their children and their own oral health during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to prevent oral disease. Wearing a  mask has increased the incidence of mouth breathing which dries out the oral cavity and increases the chance of cavities and bleeding gums.

Celebrating children’s oral health awareness is incredibly important for the community. Tooth decay remains the # 1 chronic childhood disease. Education on prevention and awareness will help motivate more parents and caregivers to recognize the seriousness of the dental disease.

Why is Children’s Dental Health Month Important?

NCDHM raises awareness of the importance of teaching children good oral habits early to ensure a lifetime of healthy smiles. Parents or caregivers are essential to decreasing the number of kids with cavities and can promote children’s dental health this month and throughout the year. We can support children’s dental health by sharing knowledge of specific topics which include:

  • How to Brush for Healthy Gums 
  • Flossing Alternatives
  • Looking for Signs of Mouth Breathing 
  • How to test the pH of the Mouth
  • Nutrition
  • How to Prevent Crowded Teeth
  •  How to Prevent Tooth Decay

If your kids tend to brush their teeth unattended, take time this month to check in on their brushing habits. Checking in with your kids and offering helpful tips and tricks will keep their teeth looking great and healthy. Using a disclosing tablet or solution to show where they are missing. 

National Children’s Dental Health month is a great time to learn about and promote good oral hygiene habits with your whole family. Treat the family with new toothbrushes, ensure your child knows how to brush their teeth properly, and visit the dentist if it’s been a while. Look for warning signs. Your whole family will know how important dental health is to their overall health.

Did you know that toothbrushes should be replaced every 3 to 4 months, when bristles become frayed it decreases their effectiveness to disrupt and remove disease-causing bacteria? Get kids excited about their daily hygiene routine with an electric toothbrush or by letting them pick a  toothbrush with their favorite character and choose toothpaste that they like. 

NCDHM is an excellent time to toss out old toothbrushes and replace them with new ones.  Frayed and broken bristles won’t keep your teeth clean—these are signs it’s time to let go.

It’s easy to slip out of your normal habits. Don’t wait to make your dental health a priority. Don’t forget to brush 2 x a day and clean between your teeth once a day with floss or a water flosser. 

One of the easiest ways to brush for a full two minutes twice a day is to sing or listen to a song that’s two minutes long. If your child is small and only has 20 teeth you may not need a full 2 minutes you just need to get all the teeth and all the surfaces.

Oral health touches every aspect of our lives but is often taken for granted. What do I mean when I say our mouth is a window into the health of our body? It can show signs of nutritional deficiencies or general infection. Systemic diseases, those that affect the entire body, may first become apparent because of mouth lesions or other oral problems like bleeding gums or cavities.

Whether you are 8 or 80, your oral health is important. Most Americans today enjoy excellent oral health and are keeping their natural teeth throughout their lives; however, cavities remain the most prevalent chronic disease of childhood. Even though regular dental examinations and good oral hygiene can prevent most dental diseases,  it is estimated over 100 million Americans do not see a dentist each year. You can prevent dental disease without seeing your dentist, but how do you know the health of your mouth if you don’t go?  Dental disease is silent, one out of two people have gingivitis in at least one area of their mouth and don’t know it. 

Many people believe that they only need to see a dentist if they are in pain or think something is wrong, but regular dental visits can contribute to a lifetime of good oral health. If you are experiencing dental pain, don’t put off seeing a dentist. Pain is a big warning sign that should not be ignored. The longer you wait the more costly it is to fix. With dentistry’s many advances, diagnosis and treatment are more comfortable than before. 

You can always practice good oral hygiene by brushing your teeth twice a day with or without toothpaste, cleaning between your teeth once a day with floss, a water flosser, or another interdental cleaner, replacing your toothbrush every three or four months, controlling the pH and by eating a balanced diet and limiting between-meal snacks. Don’t forget to schedule regular dental check-ups to keep your smile, and yourself, healthy. Leading by example — especially when it comes to establishing healthy habits — can make a big difference in the health and happiness of your entire family.

Healthy Habits for Happy Smiles

Starting early to promote good oral health is key.  We learn our habits from our parents, we pass those habits to our children. The bacteria in our mouth is familial. So we share the same bacteria for health or disease. But our genetics is a small piece of the puzzle. It is our habits and our diet that determine the health of our teeth and gums. So why not start with a good daily routine to prevent the disease from happening in the first place. 

Brushing in the morning when you wake up or after breakfast depending on how your day goes.

Brushing at bedtime helps your child know what to expect at the end of the day and disrupts all of the food and sugar they have consumed during the day. Brushing your child’s teeth and disputing the plaque is an important part of the daily routine. The saliva that bathes the teeth naturally lessens at night when we sleep leaving our teeth valuable. So,  It is important not to skip the nighttime brushing

First Dental Visit

A dental visit by age 1 is key for building a lifetime of good oral health. Tooth decay can be prevented or managed with early dental visits and with good oral hygiene, knowing the health of your child’s mouth and finding a potential problem early can help to use their growth and development to prevent future dental work, it will also keep the cost down and prevent them from losing key teeth or needing a c-pap machine later in life. Not all dentists see kiddos at this age so asking questions before you choose a dentist is a great idea. 

Long-term use of pacifiers can affect your child’s bite and the growth of the jaws and bones that support their teeth. If your child shows no interest in giving up their pacifier by age 4, they may need help to stop. This is where a myofunctional therapist can help.

Encourage your Child to Drink Water

Giving children water helps balance the pH and keep their teeth healthy. Learn about fun and easy ways to encourage children to drink water. Not all water is healthy these days. Knowing what water to drink can be as challenging as getting your kids to drink it.  You can test your tap water. Depending on where you live you may want to purchase water or get a filtration system.

Choosing Healthy Drinks for your Child

Children who are often given sugary drinks are more likely to have tooth decay (cavities). Learn about which drinks have added sugar and which drinks (water and milk) are best for children.

Why Are Baby Teeth So Important

Baby (primary) teeth are a child’s first set of teeth and by age 2½ to 3 years old, all 20 baby teeth will have come into the mouth. Taking care of a child’s baby teeth is important for their overall health and development.

If your child’s dentist finds tooth decay and recommends a follow-up dental visit for treatment, it’s important for your child to get care. Receiving follow-up treatment is key to keeping your child healthy.

Visiting the dental clinic keeps children’s teeth and mouths healthy. Learn about how to find a dental clinic and the importance of regular dental visits.

Giving children healthy meals and a variety of healthy snacks at scheduled times during the day is important to keep children healthy. Get tips for healthy snacks to give children.

Tips for healthy snacks:

  • Give your child a variety of healthy snacks, such as:
    • Fruits like apples, bananas, oranges, or berries
      • Give your child cut-up or whole fruit instead of fruit juice.
    • Vegetables like broccoli, carrots, celery, cucumbers, or peppers
    • Foods made with whole grains, like cereals, crackers, bread, or bagels
    • Dairy products like low-fat milk, cheese, cottage cheese, and unsweetened yogurt
  • Avoid foods that may cause choking, like popcorn, nuts, seeds, raw carrots, or whole grapes. Cut food into small pieces.
  • Give your child water or milk to drink with snacks.
  • Do not give your child sweets like candy, cookies, and cake at snack time. And do not give your child sweet drinks like fruit-flavored drinks, pop (soda), and fruit juice at snack time.

Taking Care of Your Oral Health

It’s important for women to get oral health care during pregnancy. Getting oral health care, including cleanings, X-rays, fillings, and pain medication, is safe during pregnancy.

Taking Care Of Your Baby Oral Health

A baby’s teeth start coming in at about 6 to 10 months old and it’s important to take care of their teeth. Learn about what you can do to keep baby teeth healthy.

That’s why we are celebrating National Children’s Dental Health Month: Share more smiles

Here are two ways you can join in and make a difference:

  1. Watch, read, play, and share the resources below with your entire family. Their smiles will thank you!
  2. Share your smile! Snap a photo of you and your family taking care of your teeth. (We’d love to see you brushing together, flossing as a family, and making your regular dental visits a special day.) Then, share it on Facebook, Instagram #healthymouthmovement. https://www.facebook.com/THMM19/
  3. We will donate $1 to provide dental health care to underserved children. Camera shy? Liking or sharing other people’s posts counts too!