Did you know February is National Children’s Dental Health Month? Its time to take advantage of Open Door Family Medical Center’s Kids Dental Care Tips. Each year, the American Dental Association (ADA) marks National Children’s Dental Health Month. This year, Open Door Family Medical Center, a federally qualified health center in the New York Metro and Hudson Valley region, has offered tips for caring for children from newborns through adolescents.
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Kids Dental Care Tips.
Dr. Janet Bozzone, Director of Dentistry at Open Door Family Medical Center, is passionate about the importance of oral health care for children. She counsels parents to remember that oral health is linked to overall wellness and that care for “baby teeth” (deciduous teeth) is just as important as care for “adult teeth.” She often hears, “they’re going to fall out anyway!” She reminds parents, however, that care for baby teeth is critical.
Why Start Early
There are several reasons that care for baby teeth is so vital. One of the most important roles for deciduous teeth is in nutrition. They enable your child to eat and chew properly, ensuring they receive the nutrition that enables proper growth and development. Less well recognized is the fact that the baby teeth assist in the formation of the child’s mouth and jaw. They act as important “placeholders” for the permanent teeth to follow, permitting these teeth to grow incorrectly. The American Dental Association notes that when a baby tooth is lost too early, the permanent teeth can shift towards the empty space, blocking other permanent teeth and potentially creating crooked or crowded conditions.
Age-Appropriate Kids Dental Care Tips
As Open Door marked the opening of their newest dental center in the Hudson Valley in Saugerties, NY, Dr. Bozzone relayed age-appropriate tips for oral health care:
Infant (newborn-12 months)
Newborns can generally have most of their oral health needs met by wiping and massaging the teeth and gums with a clean washcloth, gauze or baby brush. There are also cute and useful products available to assist in cleaning the baby’s mouth. Baby Buddy Tooth Tissues are effective, for example. The most important thing to remember is to not allow the baby to sleep with a bottle. If parents put the baby to bed with a bottle, it will increase the likelihood of developing early childhood calories. Parents who must use a bottle to get their child to sleep are cautioned to limit the bottle to water – not juice or formula.
Toddler (1-2 year)
By now you can move up to a small, pint-sized toothbrush…make sure it is soft. Brushing with a small dollop of fluoridated toothpaste (about the size of your child’s pinky nail) is recommended. There is no need to try to get the child to rinse, the child can simply spit and you can wipe away any excess. Limit milk and/or formula to what a child can consume in about 20 minutes. After that, throw the rest away.
Preschool (3-4 years)
Preschoolers will often want to try to brush their own teeth, but they lack the dexterity to do it properly. We certainly want to encourage them to take an interest, but you need to take charge and let Mommy or Daddy brush first, then allow the child to brush on their own. Two minutes twice a day is recommended but at minimum brush well before bedtime with no snacking afterward.
Elementary (5-8 years)
We used to say that children could brush their own teeth once they were able to tie their own shoelaces. With the advent of Velcro and elastic laces, it’s a milestone that is often missed! Parents will need to supervise and determine if their children are brushing thoroughly. Two minutes, twice a day is the rule, with that same pinky-sized amount of toothpaste. Spit, but don’t rinse. That residual fluoride that remains helps to fight cavities even more. A fun toothbrush timer like Brushyball can add to the fun.
Middle (9-13 years)
That two minutes, twice a day rule continues, and the need for supervision should be less necessary, but it is often good to reinforce and spot check. A dry toothbrush is a dead give-a-way that the tooth brushing was skipped. Sometimes, making brushing more fun can be useful. Battery powered cartoon characters can make brushing time more enjoyable.
But brushing and fluoride can’t do it alone! For all age groups, the frequency of carbohydrate intake is also critically important. It is not just candy that causes decay. Every time a child has a snack with a carbohydrate, acid is produced by the bacteria in the mouth. That acid is what causes tooth decay. Parents should encourage healthy snacking and limit grazing and sugary beverages including fruit juices, athletic drinks and soda. Most pediatricians recommend that 6 ounces of orange juice is sufficient, and whole fruits are preferred in general.
The First Visit To The Dentist
So when is it time for that first visit to the dentist? The ADA recommends that a child’s first dental visit should take place after their first tooth appears, but no later than the first birthday. This is important because as soon as a baby has teeth, there is the potential for cavities. Dr. Bozzone encourages parents to visit the ADA website, which has a wealth of oral health care information at https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/babies-and-kids. More information about Open Door Family Medical Centers is available at www.opendoormedical.org.
About Open Door Family Medical Center
Open Door Family Medical Center provides health care and wellness programs to individuals and families in need throughout Westchester and Putnam Counties. A pioneer Federally Qualified Health Center, Open Door provides more than 300,000 patient visits annually and serves nearly 57,000 individual patients who might not otherwise have access. Open Door offers integrated services and a holistic approach to building healthier communities. Primary medical care, dental care, integrated behavioral health care, clinical nutrition, wellness programs, and chronic disease management are the foundation of its clinical programs. Founded as a free clinic in 1972, Open Door’s mission of building healthier communities through accessible, equitable, culturally competent health care has led to site and service expansions. Today, Open Door operates centers in Brewster, Mamaroneck, Mt. Kisco, Ossining, Port Chester, and Sleepy Hollow, in addition to seven School-Based Health Centers in the Port Chester and Ossining School Districts, a mobile dental van in Mt. Kisco, and a new dental practice in Saugerties, NY. Open Door is accredited by the Joint Commission and is recognized by the National Committee on Quality Assurance as a Patient-Centered Medical Home. Open Door achieves clinical results that consistently surpass national benchmarks for patient outcomes. For additional information, please contact Amy Wolfson, Chief External Relations Officer (914) 502-1416 or online at www.opendoormedical.org.