MONTGOMERY, Ala. – February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, a time when we draw attention to the need for good oral health practices for children. The theme for this observance in 2023 is “Brush, Floss, Smile!”
Alabama’s Oral Health Office kicked off the month by announcing the two winners of the sixth annual statewide 2023 “Share Your Smile With Alabama” photo contest. The smiling third graders will be featured on billboards and with other marketing efforts to increase awareness of good oral health practices.
Oral health affects overall health throughout life. Cavities, also known as caries or tooth decay, are an extraordinarily common disease in children, even though there are very good tools to prevent them. Untreated cavities can cause pain, infections, and can lead to problems with eating, speaking and learning. More than one in five children aged 2 to 5 has at least one cavity in their baby teeth.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends parents follow and remember these basic P-E-A-R-L-S of Wisdom to protect and maintain their child’s teeth:
- Protect tiny teeth by caring for your mouth when you’re pregnant.
- Ensure that you wipe your baby’s gums after each meal.
- Avoid putting babies to bed with a bottle.
- Remember to brush your child’s teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste. For children younger than 2 years, consult with your dentist or doctor about when to start using fluoride toothpaste.
- Limit drinks and food with added sugars for children. Encourage your child to eat more fruits and vegetables and have fewer fruit drinks, cookies and candies. This gives your child the best possible start to good oral health.
- Schedule your child’s first dental visit by his or her first birthday or after the first tooth appears. Their tiny teeth matter!
Other important CDC guidance includes ensuring that children have good sources of calcium in their diets to help build strong teeth and recommending that families make water their mealtime drink. Drinking fluoridated water rebuilds the surface of teeth and helps protect teeth from decay.
Another effective tool for children’s dental health is the application of dental sealants. Sealants are a quick, easy and painless way to prevent most cavities children get in the permanent back teeth where 9 in 10 cavities occur. Children aged 6-11 without sealants have almost three times more first-molar cavities than children with sealants. Parents are encouraged to ask their child’s dentist to apply sealants when appropriate. If your child’s school has a sealant program, sign your child up to participate. If no program is available, ask your child’s school to start one.
More information about oral health is available at alabamapublichealth.gov/oralhealth.
Not only does a healthy smile increase a child’s self-confidence, but good oral health care is also essential to your child’s health and well-being. Your child’s future oral health begins with you.