February is National Children's Dental Health Month and many people are unaware of the important role early dental care plays in children's overall health. The ADA recommends that parents take action early to insure the health of their children's teeth because attitudes and habits established at an early age are critical in maintaining good oral health throughout life.
- Dental Visits
The ADA recommends regular dental check-ups, including a visit to the dentist within six months of the eruption of the first tooth, and no later than the child's first birthday. Preventive care such as cleanings and fluoride treatment provide your child with "smile" insurance. Routine dental exams uncover problems that can be treated in the early stages, when damage is minimal and restorations may be small. When necessary, X-rays are taken to see how the teeth are developing and to spot hidden decay.
- Early Childhood Caries (Baby Bottle Tooth Decay)
Baby bottle tooth decay can destroy your child's teeth. It occurs when a child is frequently exposed to sugary liquids such as milk, including breast milk, fruit juice and other sweet liquids. The ADA recommends the following steps to prevent your child from getting baby bottle tooth decay.
- Begin clearing your baby's mouth during the first few days after birth. After every feeding, wipe the baby's gums with a damp washcloth or gauze pad to remove plaque.
- Never allow your child to nurse or breast feed for prolonged periods and don't give him or her a bottle with milk, formula, sugar water or fruit juice during naps or at night in bed.
- Encourage children to drink from a cup by their first birthday.
- Discourage frequent use of a training cup.
- Help your child develop good eating habits early and choose sensible, nutritious snacks.
- Mouth Protectors
Any child involved in a recreational activity, such as soccer, hockey, football, roller blading, riding a scooter and even bicycling should wear a mouth protector. There are "stock" mouth protectors available in stores and a better-fitting variety, which are custom fitted by your dentist. Ask your dentist about using a mouth protector.
- Dental Emergencies
Knowing how to handle your child's dental emergency can mean the difference between saving or losing a tooth. The ADA recommends the following tips on what to do for your child in case of:
- Knocked-Out Tooth: Hold the tooth by the crown and rinse off the root of the tooth in water if it’s dirty. Do not scrub it or remove any attached tissue fragments. If possible, gently insert and hold the tooth in its socket. If that isn’t possible, put the tooth in a cup of milk and get to the dentist as quickly as possible. Remember to take the tooth with you!
- Toothache: Rinse your mouth with warm water to clean it out. Gently use dental floss or an interdental cleaner to ensure that there is no food or other debris caught between the teeth. Never put aspirin or any other painkiller against the gums near the aching tooth because it may burn the gum tissue. If the pain persists, contact your dentist.
- Bitten Lip or Tongue: Clean the area gently with a cloth and apply cold compresses to reduce any swelling. If the bleeding doesn’t stop, go to a hospital emergency room immediately.
Give Kids A Smile Centerpiece to National Children’s Dental Health Month
While Give Kids A Smile is an annual centerpiece to National Children's Dental Health Month and is observed every year on the first Friday in February, National Children's Dental Health Month is celebrated during the entire month of February. National Children's Dental Health Month focuses on providing oral health education to all children despite their economic status.
Give Kids A Smile is designed to provide education, preventive and restorative care to children from low-income families who do not have access to care and to encourage parents, health professionals and policymakers to address this important health issue.
About the American Dental Association
The not-for-profit ADA is the nation's largest dental association, representing more than 156,000 dentist members. The premier source of oral health information, the ADA has advocated for the public's health and promoted the art and science of dentistry since 1859. The ADA's state-of-the-art research facilities develop and test dental products and materials that have advanced the practice of dentistry and made the patient experience more positive. The ADA Seal of Acceptance long has been a valuable and respected guide to consumer dental care products. The monthly Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) is the ADA's flagship publication and the best-read scientific journal in dentistry. For more information about the ADA, visit the Association's Web site at
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