February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, a campaign sponsored by the American Dental Association (ADA) to raise awareness about the importance of oral health.
According to the ADA, baby teeth are just as important as permanent teeth because they help children chew and speak as well as hold space in the jaw for the permanent teeth that are developing under the gums. Here are six ways both kids and adults can keep their pearly whites healthy and reduce the risk of developing gum disease:
1. Brush Twice a Day – Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease, even more prevalent than asthma. Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and make sure your kids are brushing as well.
2. Floss Daily – The majority of dentists agree that flossing is even more important than brushing since it reaches food and plaque that gets trapped between the teeth, helps polish the tooth’s surfaces, and helps control bad breath. Waxed, unwaxed, flavored, or on a stick, finding the type of dental floss that’s easiest to manipulate in your mouth will help flossing become a regular habit.
3. Keep Tooth Decay at Bay – Kids typically don’t lose their last baby tooth until around age twelve, and ignoring signs of decay in baby teeth, since you know they’re coming out anyway, can lead to painful dental infections, orthodontic problems, difficulty eating and increases the chance of decay in permanent teeth. Ask your dentist about applying sealants to help shield teeth from cavities caused by bacteria and plaque.
4. Get Enough Fluoride – The fluoride in toothpaste and the majority of tap water should be sufficient to keep the tooth’s enamel strong. However, the ADA cautions against drinking too much bottled water since many brands don’t contain the same levels of fluoride found in tap water. Too little fluoride causes teeth to become more susceptible to cavities. If you’re unsure, ask your dentist about brush-on fluoride treatments during a routine visit to help strengthen the enamel.
5. Eat Less Sugar – Aim to eat a variety of nutritious foods and drink more water. Reduce sugary snacks and beverages that produce oral acids like soda, cookies, cake and chips. When you do eat sweets, try to consume them with meals since saliva production increases while eating and can help rinse food particles from the mouth.
6. See Your Dentist Twice a Year – Make scheduling regular dental visits as routine as scheduling preventative doctor visits with your primary physician. The ADA recommends that kids start seeing a dentist around their first birthday for a preventative check up.
Recent studies have shown a correlation between dental disease and heart disease, and patients with periodontal disease can have twice the risk of developing a heart attack or stroke. Maintaining healthy gums will decrease the risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases, and lead to a healthier smile. To check symptoms of gum disease or tooth decay and review treatment options, download the free iTriage app or visit www.iTriageHealth.com.