The state of children’s teeth is, to put it mildly, not so good. According to data recently distributed by the American Dental Hygientists’ Association (ADHA), 41% of children under 11 years old have primary tooth decay, and from there, the rate of caries (cavities) only increases. Amongst older teens, 68% have at least one decayed tooth.
So the ADHA has declared February to be National Children’s Dental Health Month.
While we won’t go so far as to embrace all of the tips they’re giving to parents and other caregivers – there’s far too much promotion of fluoride, even in the wake of the JADA study showing weak evidence of benefit in giving fluoride to young kids – of course we’re all for promoting better oral health and hygiene for children. Instilling good habits early can prevent a world of woe later.
So here’s our variation on the ADHA tip sheet:
- Clean infants’ gums after feeding with a moist infant washcloth or gauze pad.
- Don’t let your child sleep with a bottle, but if you do, fill it with water. Minimize intake of juice or other sugary liquids altogether, as these promote acidity and tooth decay. If you give your child formula, be sure that the water you mix it in is not fluoridated.
- Starting around your child’s first birthday, schedule and keep regular dental health and hygiene appointments.
- When your child’s primary (“baby”) teeth begin to errupt, clean them by brushing gently with a small, soft-bristled toothbrush lightly smeared with natural toothpaste – the kind that contains neither fluoride nor sodium lauryl sulfate. At age two or three, begin teaching your child how to brush their own teeth. Instill the habit of brushing after every meal.
- As soon as your child’s primary teeth erupt, begin flossing their teeth regularly. By the time your child reaches the age of six, you can teach them how to properly floss their teeth on their own.
- Limit the amount of sugar and highly processed foods your children eat, while providing a nutrient-rich diet based on whole foods.