JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. –
Fun fact: Childhood tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease!
This February, in observance of National Children’s Dental Health Month, parents, caregivers and healthcare providers are encouraged to promote healthy oral hygiene habits for children to prevent tooth decay – one brush at a time.
It is never too early to establish regular dental care for children. The all too common “dentophobia” is a learned fear, which can be avoided by offering support and joy about visiting the dentist.
“Make your child’s first dental visit by age one,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Emily Ibarra, 633d Dental Squadron residency flight commander. “This is the best opportunity for parents to learn how to care for their children’s teeth and help your child learn to feel comfortable at the dental office.”
Tooth decay can eventually lead to cavities, which can be painful. Tooth decay is prevented with the most basic practices: brushing and flossing.
Brushing starts with the right equipment. Although electric toothbrushes are recommended, manual toothbrushes work as well. Brushing is 60% of the cleaning, and the remaining 40% is all about flossing. Therefore, it’s important to floss children’s teeth at least once a day.
Many people underestimate the importance of baby teeth.
“Baby teeth are important for speaking, chewing, smiling and holding space for adult teeth to grow into,” Ibarra said.
Once teeth erupt, parents can use a washcloth or infant toothbrush to clean the baby’s teeth and gums. Flossing can start once the child’s teeth are close together, usually around age two. By age six to nine, children will be able to brush their teeth effectively on their own.
Good dental hygiene starts with caregivers and, with time and patience, children will be able to sustain great dental health into adulthood.