Georgia Encourages Families to Build Good Oral Health and Literacy Habits

February 1, 2016

This month, the State of Georgia will celebrate the National Children's Dental Health Month to raise awareness about the importance of good oral health. Parents and children will be encouraged to brush their teeth for two minutes, two times per day, and read for 20 minutes as a way of building good oral health and literacy habits.

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Health, oral health is an essential component of health throughout life.

Poor oral health and untreated infections have a significant impact on quality of life for school-aged children. Research shows that American children miss 52 million hours of school annually due to oral health problems.

Children’s teeth are at risk for decay as soon as they first appear around 6 months old. The upper front teeth are generally the first to be affected by decay. This can lead to considerable pain and suffering, cause speech problems and negatively impact their overall well-being.

Oral health also has an effect on other chronic diseases. When children don’t receive regular preventive dental services, their treatment becomes more complex. This increases their risk for hospitalization, high treatment costs and loss of school days which ultimately limits their ability to learn.

Dental decay also plays a role in a child’s nutrition, growth and weight gain. Young children under the age of 3 with early childhood decay weigh less than dentally healthy children because toothache and infection alter eating and sleeping habits, dietary intake and other health processes.

For all these reasons, oral health should not be handled separately from the rest of the body. Tooth decay is preventable, especially when good oral health practices for children begin at birth.

There are easy actions parents take to implement good oral health practices for children so they enjoy a happy, healthy smile throughout their infancy and adolescence:

During Infancy

  • Mothers should begin cleaning their baby’s mouth during the first few days after birth by wiping the gums with a clean, moist gauze pad or washcloth.
  • When feeding, bottles should not be propped, or leaned against a pillow or other item for support. This can cause formula to remain in the child’s mouth and lead to tooth decay. Instead, mothers should hold both the baby and the bottle.
  • Use a small soft baby brush to clean an infant’s teeth once they appear. When brushing, mothers should always lift the upper lip, brush teeth and check them for changes like staining or pitting. 

During Adolescence

  • Brush teeth after every meal. Parents or caregivers can assist children by putting a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste on their toothbrush and making them brush for two minutes.
  • Try to limit sugar intake. Sugar turns into acid when consumed. If sugary foods are consumed often, there is not enough time for saliva to balance this acid, leading to tooth decay.
  • Drink flouridated water if possible. According to the American Dental Association, optimal levels of fluoride in water can help prevent tooth decay in both children and adults.
  • Secure routine dental care for children beginning at age 1.

For more information on oral health practices for children, visit the American Dental Association online at www.ada.org

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