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Children's Dental Health Month: Experts encourage good habits early

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Thursday, February 15, 2024   

February is Children's Dental Health Month and experts are stressing the importance of focusing on children's teeth early.

Later in life, poor oral health can contribute to harmful conditions outside the mouth - including pneumonia, heart disease, and birth complications.

Dr. Natasha Bramley is a pediatric dentist in Portland and the vice president of the Oregon Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. She said it's important to establish healthy habits early.

"There's a perception that baby teeth are not important because they're going to fall out anyway," said Bramley, "but in fact studies show that if baby teeth are kept healthy then that sets the stage for healthy adult teeth as well."

Bramley said poor oral health can compromise a child's ability to eat, smile and socialize. The pain often causes kids to miss school and achieve lower grades.

Dr. Paul McConnell is dental director for UnitedHealthcare. He said nearly of half of children have at least one cavity by age eight.

"Dental decay in baby teeth may negatively affect the permanent teeth that are developing underneath and also lead to other issues, such as pain, infection or even issues with speaking," said McConnell. "Despite being largely preventable, dental decay ranks as the most common chronic condition among children."

Bramley said one way parents can encourage good habits is to lead by example.

"There are lots of tricks and tips your dentist can give you, such as playing their favorite song, allowing your child to brush your own teeth before you brush theirs," said Bramley, "different things to make a fun activity at home and not a chore."



Disclosure: UnitedHealthcare contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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