The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that caries (more commonly known as cavities) is the most prevalent infectious disease in our nation’s children. More than 40 percent of children have cavities by the time they reach kindergarten. Some reports have even shown that the incidence of cavities may be increasing in children under the age of 5. So what can you do to protect your child?
- Take your child for a dental checkup.
The American Academy of Pediatric and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry both recommend your child’s first dental exam occur by the time they are 12 months old. Many studies have shown that the earlier a child is seen by a dentist, the number of dental procedures needed significantly decreases. Even still, many children are not seen by the dentist for many years after their first birthday.
The first dental checkup is not just about looking for cavities. A pediatric dentist will also look at general growth and health of the teeth, jaws, joints, and gums. A thorough assessment of your child’s oral hygiene and eating habits will also be made. Every child is different and a specially tailored plan will help set them up for great future dental health.
- Choose drinks carefully.
One of the simplest pieces of advice relates to your child’s liquid intake. It is not uncommon for parents to put their children to bed with a bottle of milk or juice. Many children also have access to milk or juice throughout the day with the use of non-spill cups. Both of these habits are the number one contributor to early cavities in children.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no juice for babies under one year, less than 4oz of juice a day for toddlers and less than 6oz for older kids. Juice should also be consumed with one of the three major meals. Having your child drink water between meals is one of the best choices you can make not only for their oral health but their overall health as well. Dietary habits are very difficult to change after three years of age which is why encouraging your child to have a well rounded diet early on is crucial.
- Teach them to take care of their teeth.
Oral hygiene involves the parent and patient. Initially, oral hygiene is the responsibility of the parent. As the child develops, home dental care is performed jointly by parent and child. When a child demonstrates the understanding and ability to perform personal hygiene techniques (usually around the time they can tie their own shoe), the dentist will help coach them in the proper techniques to start taking the lead in their own dental care!
Dr. Andrew Shoemaker is board certified by the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry an is an active member of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry, and the College of Diplomates of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry. His practice, Shoemaker Pediatric Dentistry, serves young patients in the Kennesaw area. You may find out more or reach Dr. Shoemaker at ShoemakerPediatricDentistry.com