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Begin Dental Care Before Your Child's First Birthday

Early dental care can help a child grow healthier in a variety of ways. (Greg Stotelmyer)
Early dental care can help a child grow healthier in a variety of ways. (Greg Stotelmyer)
February 9, 2016

FRANKFORT, Ky. - While going to a dentist may not be at the top of a child's list of fun things to do, good oral health is vital to their overall health. Oral health consultant Stephanie Chickering says it's very important for a child to see a dentist by age one.

"If the child has serious tooth decay or other mouth problems, they have trouble eating, sleeping, they have trouble learning new skills at school, they have trouble at home," she says. "A child with a healthy mouth has a lot more confidence."

Chickering says since cavities can be present when a child's first teeth come in, it's important to begin regular brushing as soon as teeth are visible, and to begin flossing when the first teeth touch.

Doctor Laura Hancock Jones, a dentist with University of Kentucky Dental Outreach, says children's habits, both what they drink and whether they brush, have been set by the time they turn two. She says because kids don't have the dexterity to brush their own teeth until about second grade, it's important for parents to help out.

"It's not enough for a parent to say, 'hey, go brush your teeth' when you're dealing with a three year old," says Hancock Jones. "They still need to be in there doing the work themselves."

Hancock Jones says marketing by food and beverage companies makes it more difficult for parents to avoid products that are bad for their children, although she says holding the line is another important part of fighting tooth decay.

"To know what to buy at the store, what to include in the daily diet, that's going to help ensure a better oral health outcome years down the road," she says.

According to the Kentucky Oral Health Coalition, tooth decay is two-to-three times more common among kids than asthma or obesity.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY