A few years ago my daughter needed fillings for two cavities. She was only 3 years old. Imagine the guilt I felt as she got gassed, prodded and drilled while I sat in the waiting room.
Luckily my daughter has a good dentist. And luckily—though a bit rattled—she came out of it in good shape. Still, I said “never again.” My wife and I have been pretty vigilant about taking care of our kids’ teeth ever since.
According to the Hawaii Department of Health, 73 percent of Hawaii parents say that the oral health of their children is excellent or very good. Yet, the National Institute of Health reports that more than 40 percent of kids ages 2-11 have suffered from tooth decay.
Some may ask, “Why worry about decay in baby teeth, since they’ll eventually be replaced by permanent teeth?” According to the American Dental Association (ADA), decay in primary teeth could mean a higher risk of decay in the permanent teeth. And if decay is severe, it can harm your child’s overall health.
Luckily, tooth decay and other issues like gum disease are preventable. February is National Children’s Dental Health Month and a good time to brush up on your knowledge on oral care for kids. Check out these tips, courtesy of the ADA.
Care Don’t Share. Don’t share utensils with your child or “clean” a pacifier by putting it in your mouth. You can transfer cavity-causing germs to your child.
Eat healthy. A nutritious, balanced diet helps give your children strong teeth. Choose foods and beverages that are low in added sugars. Bacteria in the mouth change the sugar in foods into acid. Each time your child eats or drinks sugary foods, this acid can attack the teeth for 20 minutes or longer.
Your child’s first dental visit should be within six months of the first tooth appearing and should happen at no later than age 1.
Use fluoride toothpaste as soon as teeth come through the gums. For children under 3, use no more than a smear or the size of a grain of rice. For children 3-6, use a pea-size amount of toothpaste.
Brush two minutes, two times a day. Supervise and assist in your children’s brushing and remind them not to swallow the toothpaste. Most kids can start brushing their own teeth and flossing at around age 6.
Daily flossing can begin once your child has two teeth that are touching together.
Ask your dentist about fluoride treatments. Most public water systems in Hawaii are not fluoridated so residents have to rely on other sources of fluoride to prevent tooth decay. Also ask aboutdental sealants, a coating that protects the chewing surfaces of back teeth.
If you and your family are in need of a dental plan or if you’re an HMSA dental member looking for more information on your benefits and dentists available, make sure to visit hmsadental.com.