Did you know that February is Children’s Dental Health Month?

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February, with its dual emphasis on love and candy, is an appropriate time to focus on children’s teeth and the importance of establishing good oral health habits early in life.

It’s a sweet thing to do, especially for someone you love. If you’re focusing on a dental assisting or a dental hygienist career, you might already know that tooth decay is considered an infectious disease.

ALARMING STATISTICS

As odd as that might sound, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that tooth decay is among the most chronic childhood conditions in the United States, with approximately 20 percent of children between the ages of five and 11 having at least one untreated cavity.

Dental cavities are caused by bacteria and cause pain as well as leading to potential learning difficulties and problems with eating and speaking. Sadly, cavity rates are higher in lower-income families, even among older children and young adults.

Medical and dental professionals agree that joining forces to instill proper brushing and flossing habits early in life can lead to better overall health for teens and adults.

There is increasing evidence that other physical ailments, including heart disease, diabetes, inflammation associated with Rheumatoid arthritis and even some forms of dementia or cancer may be linked to unhealthy teeth and gums.

BABY TEETH ARE IMPORTANT

Tooth decay is preventable. However, teaching good habits should begin early and continue with adult supervision until a child is at least seven or eight.

Help with flossing might be required until age 10 or even later. Young children generally love to mimic the habits of their parents and older siblings. There’s nothing like a good role model.

Unfortunately, too many parents still underestimate the importance of pediatric dental exams and teaching toddlers to brush. Affecting tooth decay statistics in children is largely a matter of parent education.

When parents follow the 2-2-2 Rule and dental hygiene at home is reinforced with early visits to a dentist, there is every reason to smile. Current recommendations are that parents schedule a professional exam within six months of that first tooth’s appearance or at least by a child’s first birthday.

DENTAL ASSISTANTS AND DENTAL HYGIENISTS MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A career in any aspect of dental assisting is a great way to make a difference. Assuring that young children are comfortable in the dentist’s chair might require a special talent, but kids are instinctively curious and can view a visit to the dentist as a new adventure.

The basic principles of “Tell-Show-Do” and making proper tooth care fun serve naturally to build good habits.

Additional ways of assuring strong teeth and a healthy smile include:

● Proper nutrition
● Limiting sugar and sweet snacks
● Fluoride protection, but follow your dentist’s recommendations with young children
● Regular examinations
● Prompt treatment for cavities, tooth abnormalities and gum problems

Whether you are a parent or work with parents and children in a professional situation, February is a perfect time to spread the word about the importance of oral health. And that’s a great way to spread the love!

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