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For Your Health: Start Early with Good Dental Habits

Tooth decay is one of the most common chronic conditions of childhood in the United States.

Tooth decay is one of the most common chronic conditions of childhood in the United States. One out of 10 toddlers who are two years of age already have one or more cavities, and by age five, nearly half have one or more cavities. The good news is that tooth decay is preventable!

Good oral care should start with baby teeth. Baby teeth are important for the health and development of a child. They help a child chew, speak, and smile. Baby teeth are also important because they hold space for adult teeth growing under the gums.

Cavities develop when the bacteria in the mouth changes the sugars in milk and other foods left over in a baby’s mouth into acids that can dissolve the tooth enamel. To prevent cavities, wipe baby’s gums gently with a soft, wet washcloth daily. When the first tooth comes in, use a washcloth or soft toothbrush with a rice grain-sized dab of fluoride toothpaste twice a day. Call a dentist if there are any spots on the teeth – these spots could be a cavity.

Every child needs a “dental home” a place for regular dental visits. By the first birthday, a child should see a dentist. Then, the child should visit a dentist twice a year or as advised. The dentist will show the parent how to clean a child’s teeth and protect them from cavities.

According to the American Dental Association, adult teeth start coming in between ages six to seven years of age. These teeth must last a lifetime, so keep them healthy. A child cannot brush well by themselves and they need help until about eight years of age. Help a child brush with a pea-size dab of fluoride toothpaste twice a day. Teach him or her to spit and not swallow toothpaste. Don’t forget to brush the tongue. Help them floss before bedtime.

A healthy diet is an important component to protecting a child’s teeth, too. Sugary drinks are associated with increased risk of weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. These drinks also double the risk of cavities in children. In California, nearly two out three (62 percent) of adolescents and two out of five (41 percent) of children drink one or more sodas per day. Each year, the average California adolescent consumes 39 pounds of sugar from sugary drinks!

When choosing beverages, consider both calories and nutrients. Water, milk and 100 percent juice are the only beverage options that should be provided to children. Milk, a good source of calcium, is important for bone and teeth health and development. Children ages one to two years of age should consume whole milk and children older than two-years should consume 1 percent or fat-free milk. Fruit juice offers no nutritional benefit to children under the age of one year and should not be included in their diet (unless recommended by a healthcare provider). The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting 100 percent fruit juice for children ages one to three years of age to 4 ounces a day; children four to six years of age to four to six ounces per day; and children ages 7-18 to eight ounces per day.

The tips above can help you establish a proper oral hygiene for your child to ensure the development of healthy teeth. The earlier that children learn to care for their oral health will lower the chances of suffering from dental problems.

Rema El-Mahmoud is a Public Health Nutritionist and Anquanitte Ortega is a Senior Health Education Specialist at Solano County Public Health and are partners of Solano Coalition for Better Health.

Story Credit: https://www.dailyrepublic.com/solano-news/local-features/local-lifestyle-columns/for-your-health-start-early-with-good-dental-habits/