Innumerable pediatric dental studies and research have concluded the importance of pediatric dentistry and starting children early in their lives with good dental hygiene and oral care. According to pediatric dental research, the most common chronic childhood disease in America is tooth decay, affecting 50 percent of first-graders and 80 percent of 17-year-olds. Early pediatric dental treatment prevents problems affecting a child's health, well-being, self-image and overall achievement.
The National Institute of Dental & Craniofacial Research estimates that children will miss 52 million hours of school each year due to oral health problems and about 12.5 million days of restricted activity every year from dental symptoms. Because there is such a significant loss in their academic performance, the Surgeon General has made children's oral health a priority.
You as a parent are responsible for ensuring that your child practices good dental hygiene. Introducing proper oral care early in your child's life—as early as infancy is important.
The American Dental Hygiene Association states that a good oral hygiene routine for children includes:
- Thoroughly cleaning your infant's gums after each feeding with a water-soaked infant cloth. This stimulates the gum tissue and removes food.
- Teaching your kid at age 3 about proper brushing techniques with a small, soft-bristled toothbrush and a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste and later teaching them brushing and gentle flossing until 7 or 8 years old.
- Regular visits with their pediatric dentist to check for cavities in the primary teeth and for possible developmental problems.
- Encouraging your child to discuss any fears they may have about oral health visits, but not mentioning words like 'pain' or 'hurt,' since this may instill the possibility of pain in your child's thought process.
- Determining if the water supply that serves your home is fluoridated. If not, discussing supplement options with your pediatric dentist or dental hygienist.
- Asking your dental hygienist or pediatric dentist about sealant applications to protect your child's teeth-chewing surfaces and about bottle tooth decay, which occurs when teeth are frequently exposed to sugared liquids.