Children’s Dental Health Awareness Month

written by Dr. Lane Nebeker, DMD

This month is National Children’s Dental Health Month. Oral health is an important issue for us all, so it is critical that we train and educate our children not to neglect good oral hygiene. A lack of proper dental care may affect children’s speech, nutrition, growth and function, social development and quality of life. Tooth decay is recognized as one of the most common chronic disease affecting children in the United States.1

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry wrote in 2013, “Caries, which derives from the Latin word for rotten and is commonly referred to as cavities or tooth decay, is a disease that is chronic, infectious and transmissible. It results from exposure to bacteria through contact with saliva, often from the primary caregiver but sometimes from other caregivers or playmates. The bacteria metabolize sugars to produce acid which, over time, demineralizes tooth structure. The earlier children are exposed to these bacteria, the more likely they are to develop caries and the greater the risk to their oral health. Infected infants are far more likely to develop immediate and long-term oral health issues than those who are not infected so young. Caries among young children, or early childhood caries (ECC), is a particularly rapid form of tooth decay. ECC was once called baby bottle tooth decay, since a key cause of the disease is putting children to bed with a bottle of juice or milk. ECC is now the most common chronic early childhood disease in the United States; for instance, ECC is five times more common than asthma. In addition to being highly prevalent and on the rise among young children, caries is often untreated in children under the age of 3, according to national surveys.” 2

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tooth decay affects more than 20 percent of U.S. children 5 to 11 years of age, and 13 percent of those 12 to 19 years of age. Parents can help their children avoid dental health issues like cavities by establishing healthy routines early. 1

I encourage parents to do the following:
• Lead by example: Set a good example and let your kids learn by watching and imitating you as you brush, rinse, and floss at least 2 times a day.
• Brush in front of a mirror: Encourage your kids to brush in front of a mirror; it will help them see spots they may otherwise miss.
• Make it Fun: Check out “Yuck Mouth,” the iPhone and Android app and online game designed by Crest and Oral-B to encourage healthy oral care habits. There are also many fun and educational resources at the Children’s Smile Project website:
• Offer Choices: Have plenty of oral care supplies on hand for your kids in the flavors and designs they’ll be excited to use to encourage proper oral hygiene.

~ Dr. Lane Nebeker DMD, Smiles Dental, Salem, Oregon

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children’s Oral Health. November 10th, 2014
2 American Association of Pediatric Dentistry. Policy on Early Childhood Caries (ECC): Classifications, consequences, and Preventive Strategies. Revised 2011.