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Parents Urged to Make Dental Health a Priority for Kids

Early dental checkups can prevent problems for kids as they grow. (cdc.gov)
Early dental checkups can prevent problems for kids as they grow. (cdc.gov)
February 23, 2017

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The spotlight is on children's dental health this month, and parents are being reminded of the importance of preventing tooth decay, because it can have long-term consequences for kids.

February is National Children's Dental Health Month, and pediatric dentist Dr. Mira Albert said one in three children in the U.S age 2-5 is affected by tooth decay. She said while parents take charge of their children's health by choosing organic foods and being selective about the kinds of activities they participate in, often trips to the dentist are too few and far between.

"Dental decay, especially in young children, can kind of go unnoticed and it can begin to cause a lot of pain and infection that can lead to lost school days and lost work days while you're having these things treated,” Albert said. “And it can be quite painful and destructive."

But tooth decay is preventable. According to Albert, parents should take their children to the dentist by age 1 to help them feel at ease when they do have to have dental work done.

And she said to avoid putting babies to bed with a bottle because it can lead to rampant cavities. She also recommends helping children break the habit of using a pacifier by age 3 because it can lead to an overbite or speech defect.

Another tip is to limit between-meal snacking. Albert said when kids do get hungry before lunch or dinner, give them low-sugar, low-carbohydrate snacks such as apple slices or carrots.

"This constant exposure to high-carb, high-sugary foods and beverages bathes the teeth in these acidic components and lowers the PH in the mouth, and that makes the teeth very susceptible to tooth decay,” she said.

Teething is a normal process every child goes through, and Albert recommends avoiding teething gels containing medications. Instead, she said, use a cold washcloth or gently massage the gums with your fingertips.

For more information on children's oral health, visit AAP.org.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MN