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February is National Children’s Dental Health Month!
Parents, this is a great time to take another look at the best ways to prevent cavities for you and your kids.
Why is this important to you?
To be healthy, kids need to have healthy mouths.
Mouth pain means that kids miss school and parents miss work, and dental treatment can be expensive or hard to access. Poor oral health can lead to infections, nutritional problems, and affect a child’s overall well-being.
Latino kids suffer more than other kids from tooth decay, from baby teeth up through permanent teeth. Latino kids from families with lower incomes have the highest rates of severe and untreated decay.
So what can you do?
1. Drink water instead of soda pop, juice or other sweetened beverages
Water is essential to our overall health.
It keeps us hydrated, protects our joints, and helps our whole body function smoothly. Juice and sugar sweetened beverages like soda and sports drinks, are a major cause of tooth decay and obesity and are not recommended for people with diabetes. Water has zero calories, and fluoridated water protects teeth.
2. Drink water that is fluoridated.
Fluoride is a mineral that strengthens teeth so they’re more resistant to the bacteria that cause decay.
Fluoride is found naturally in all sources of water. (It comes from phosphate rock and, like other minerals, dissolves into the water supply.) Most major cities and towns in the U.S. adjust the fluoride in their tap water to prevent cavities. (You can learn about fluoride in your tap water here.)
Most bottled water does not have fluoride in it. If it does, it will say so on the label. Many bottled waters are filled from sources similar to tap water, and some of those sources may be fluoridated. But if fluoride was not added as part of the bottling process, it will not appear on the label. To be sure, call the number on the label for more information.
3. Brush with fluoride toothpaste.
Fluoride toothpaste should be used when brushing twice a day.
For children under age 3, the toothpaste should be the size of a small grain of rice. For children over 3, it can be the size of a small pea. In general, “kids’ flavors” are discouraged since they are easily mistaken as a treat to eat. More tips for brushing your children’s teeth can be found here.
4. Ask your child’s doctor about teeth.
Yes, your doctor can help, too.
Many doctors can apply fluoride varnish to your child’s teeth. (It’s a concentrated form of toothpaste that is brushed on to teeth in the office.) They can usually refer your family to a dentist.
Celebrate your child’s health by taking these simple steps to help them have healthy teeth!
Editor’s Note: This is a guest blog post by the Campaign for Dental Health