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Pandemic Shouldn't Curb Kids' Dental-Care Routine

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While it's normal for kids to lose their baby teeth, pediatric dentists remind parents to teach them good oral hygiene to make sure when their permanent teeth come in, they stay that way. (Nuzza11/Adobe Stock)
While it's normal for kids to lose their baby teeth, pediatric dentists remind parents to teach them good oral hygiene to make sure when their permanent teeth come in, they stay that way. (Nuzza11/Adobe Stock)
February 17, 2021

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Pediatric dentists are reminding parents with kids schooling from home during the pandemic that it's important to make sure they brush and floss regularly. February is Children's Dental Health Month, and pediatric dentists say oral health is closely tied to a child's overall well-being.

When kids are home all day, said Jessica Robertson, a pediatric dentist in northern Arizona, it's important for parents to set a dental hygiene routine, and make sure their children stick to it.

"With the kids being at home, they're less likely to have a routine," she said. "A lot of them are just getting up, going on to a virtual school, and they kind of forget about that morning brushing. Then, they're caught up in devices and they forget that night-time tooth brushing."

Robertson, an Arizona Dental Association board member, said many dentists temporarily closed in the early weeks of the pandemic, causing many children to miss their regular appointments. She added that when they come back for a checkup, it isn't surprising that they often have more cavities than normal.

Dr. Richard Gesker, chief dental officer for UnitedHealthcare, said tooth decay is the most common chronic disease among children - and it's preventable.

"This is absolutely critical," he said, "because by age five, nearly 50% of all children have at least one cavity."

Gesker also recommended that parents clean babies' teeth with a soft cloth, teach children age two and older to use a soft-bristled brush without swallowing the toothpaste, and show kids how to floss once their back teeth come in.

"Parents should really consider fluoride treatments, which strengthen the tooth enamel and help protect the teeth from decay," he said. "And sealants are plastic-like coatings which are applied to back teeth like nail polish, to prevent decay."

The ADA has recommended that everyone continue to schedule dental checkups, cleanings and routine care. However, the World Health Organization has recommended that people avoid nonemergency care if they're living in a place with uncontrolled community spread of COVID-19.

Disclosure: United Healthcare contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AZ