A few ways to prevent oral health problems at an early age

Courtesy of Winnond

Fact: Tooth decay is the most common chronic health problem in children today, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Fact: More than a quarter of all children have decay in their baby teeth by the time they start kindergarten.

Fact: Nearly 68 percent of teens ages 16 to 19 have decay in their adult teeth.

So what can we do to help eradicate this dental health epidemic? The American Association of Pediatrics has some advice for all families:

It starts early, by taking care of your baby’s teeth.

Wipe your baby’s gums with a clean washcloth (birth to 12 months). When you see the first teeth, use a soft baby toothbrush and water to gently brush the teeth. From 12 to 24 months, brush your child’s teeth at least twice a day. The best times to brush are after breakfast and before bed.

Never put a child to bed with a bottle or food. Both will expose your child’s teeth to sugars that can rot the teeth and create cavities at an early age. It can also put your child at risk for ear infections and choking.

Give your child a bottle only during meals. Don’t use the bottle as a pacifier. And don’t let your child walk around a bottle or sippy cup for long periods of time – the contents can corrode the child’s teeth.

Don’t be afraid of tap water. Tap water contains fluoride that is very good for your child’s teeth. If your water doesn’t contain enough fluoride, a dentist can prescribe an appropriate supplement to avoid risks for tooth decay.

Encourage your child to drink from a cup as soon as possible. A child should start to drink from a cup from 12 to 15 months of age. If your child must have a bottle or sippy cup in between meals, fill it with water rather than formulas that may decay the teeth for long periods of time.

Avoid sweet and sticky foods. These items will stick to your child’s teeth and remain there throughout the day.

See a dentist before your child turns one. Long-term dental problems can be prevented starting at an early age.

Does your child need a dentist? Children between the ages of one and eight are eligible for free oral health examinations and treatment through the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile. Contact Judy Gelinas, program director, for more details at (215) 427-4383.