Posted August 18, 2014
The beginning of a new school year is the perfect time to think about how children’s health affects their academic performance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 25 percent of American children age 2 to 5, and 50 percent of kids ages 12 to 15, are affected by tooth decay. Children with dental problems often struggle academically, lack self-confidence and are reluctant to smile. But it is possible to improve a child’s oral health by instilling good dental habits.
Tooth decay affects American children more than any other chronic infectious disease. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry offers these statistics. Tooth decay is:
- 5 times more common than asthma
- 7 times more common than hay fever
- 4 times more common than early childhood obesity
- 20 times more common than diabetes
Develop healthy dental habits early
When children are born, their 20 baby teeth already are present in the jaw. The early stages of tooth decay often begin when children are young – when the first teeth erupt. Sugars in foods, juice and milk linger around the new teeth and lay a foundation for tooth decay.
Oral care guidelines
The American Dental Association (ADA) offers these dental care guidelines to prevent tooth decay:
- Wipe baby teeth – As teeth erupt, wipe them daily with gauze to remove plaque.
- First dental visit by age one – Parents or caregivers should schedule a child’s first dental checkup by age one. The dentist will check for early signs of decay, the correct alignment, and the correct development of teeth and gums.
- Use fluoride toothpaste – The ADA recommends children use fluoride toothpaste. For children age 3 and younger, brush with a small smear of toothpaste, and use a pea-size amount for kids between ages 3 and 6. Teeth should be brushed twice daily, once in the morning and once in the evening.
- Floss teeth daily – As soon as teeth get close enough to touch, gently floss them once each day.
- Regular dental visits – Schedule a dental checkup at least once each year, or as directed by your dentist.