National Children's Dental Health Month: Getting an Early Start
Los Angeles---After their baby teeth began to appear, Alexander and Emily each paid a visit to the dentist. This was soon followed by twice-a-year dental check-ups and daily brushing with the help of their mom, Jamie Goldborough.
"Our pediatrician told me about the importance of taking the kids to a pediatric dentist at an early age. I also wanted to get them started on healthy habits," said Goldborough, who also makes sure Alexander, 5, and Emily, 4, have a balanced diet and tries to limit snacks, sugars and sweets.
Goldborough, a stay-at-home mom, is doing everything right when it comes to her kids' oral health. Unfortunately, many parents in Los Angeles County are unaware of the significance of regular dental visits and good oral hygiene for their young children.
According to Evelyn V. Martinez, executive director of First 5 LA, many youngsters do not visit the dentist regularly or get the dental care they need to keep their teeth and gums healthy.
"As a result, they are infected with dental diseases that can hurt the development of their permanent teeth, lead to painful conditions and threaten their overall health and well-being," Martinez said. "Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease of childhood, occurring up to five times more frequently than asthma, and also a leading cause of absence from school."
Dental decay can start as soon as a baby tooth appears. In California, by the time children are in preschool, 27 percent have at least one tooth with untreated decay, according to the Dental Health Foundation.
While they are eventually replaced by permanent teeth, baby teeth are a part of a child's life until he is about 12 years old. They serve a number of critical functions, including maintaining good nutrition by permitting a child to chew properly, saving space for the permanent teeth and guiding them into place, helping with speech development and are important to a child's overall self-esteem.
But treating cavities and tooth decay aren't the only reasons for a dental visit. A pediatric dentist provides an evaluation of changes in a child's oral health. These may include the need for additional fluoride, dietary adjustments, or sealants, a thin coating applied to the teeth to reduce the risk of decay.
Parents can take the following steps to ensure healthy teeth and gums for their young children:
- Limit frequent snacking
- Choose nutritious snacks
- Help them brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and floss daily
- Have sealants applied when appropriate, and schedule regular dental check-ups.
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