A Lifetime of Great Dental Health Starts Early
By Dr. Sandra B. Nichols, Chief Medical Officer of the Northeast Region for UnitedHealthcare
Good oral health is crucial to good overall health, and the habits young people develop during childhood can last a lifetime.
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, providing an ideal opportunity for families and health professionals to improve children’s oral health and address one of the greatest unmet health needs among young people.
While some people believe baby teeth are not overly important, they are in fact crucial for maintaining proper health. Tooth decay in children can lead to poor eating habits, speech problems, oral infections and discolored, crooked and damaged adult teeth.Additionally, it’s important to keep baby teeth healthy and in place to ensure the permanent teeth come in properly.
The good news is promoting good oral health among children is relatively easy, especially by following these tips:
Tips for caring for baby’s teeth and gums:
- Never put baby to bed with a bottle of milk, formula, fruit juice or sweetened liquid. When these liquids pool in a baby’s mouth, they form a sugary film on the baby’s teeth, leading to decay and infection.
- Starting at birth, clean baby’s gums with water and a soft cloth or child-sized tooth brush. Once a child reaches age 2, parents can start brushing baby’s teeth with a soft bristled toothbrush and a pea-sized dab of fluoride toothpaste, making sure to teach the toddler to spit out the toothpaste.
- Schedule baby’s first dental visit when his/her first tooth comes in, usually between the child’s first six to 12 months.
Tips for caring for children’s teeth and gums:
- Help your child brush twice a day with a small amount of fluoride toothpaste. When your child is pre-school age, assist with brushing to make sure teeth get clean and that your child does not swallow toothpaste, which may expose them to too much fluoride.
- Begin flossing when back teeth begin to come in. This is important because toothbrush bristles cannot reach between teeth, leaving those teeth vulnerable to bacteria and decay.
- Limit sugary snacks and drinks between meals. When sugar comes in contact with teeth, decay-causing bacteria can produce acids that damage your child’s teeth. Encourage children to eat healthy snacks, such as fruits and vegetables, instead.
- Take your child to the dentist regularly and ask about fluoride supplements, which make the tooth enamel strong and help to protect it from decay. For most children, that means visiting the dentist twice a year.
- Sealants are plastic coatings placed on back teeth to protect them from decay, and they are usually covered as a preventive service by most dental plans, requiring little or no out-of-pocket costs.
Be sure to take advantage of your plan’s preventive benefit and visit your dentist regularly. By taking a few simple steps, you can start your children down the road of good oral health.
Learn more about how to take care of yourself and your family at http://www.uhc.com/source4women.html.