February is National Children’s Dental Health Month

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month

By Dr. William Demray

Why is this important?

“Tooth decay is the most prevalent childhood disease,” said Dr. William Demray, founder of Preservation Dental in Northville, Michigan. Children and adolescents with poor oral health are more likely to have pain, miss school and perform poorly academically than their peers with better oral health1.  According to the Surgeon General cavities in children occur 5 to 8 times more frequently than asthma. 2″

Lessons learned in early childhood about tooth decay prevention are necessary because oral health impacts a person’s overall health and well-being throughout their life.

Early prevention can mean big cost savings. Average costs of oral health services are lower among children who start regular dental visits earlier than for children who have their first visit later3.

Demray and his team encourage parents to start regular checkups for their children as early as two.

National surveys report that 41 percent of children aged 2 to 11 years had cavities in their primary or baby teeth and 42 percent of those aged 6 to 19 years had cavities in their permanent teeth4.

Routinely during visits at Preservation Dental, parents are provided with counseling on oral hygiene, fluoride, injury prevention and most importantly nutrition.

The team provides easy tips for in between checkups.

· Encourage your child to brush at least twice a day – before school and before bedtime.

· Make brushing fun. Turn on a two-minute timer and play their favorite tune!

· Try to encourage flossing at least once a day.

· Don’t shy away from x-rays during your child’s check-up. If recommended, they ensure a more thorough exam.

· Schedule cleaning appointments for your child every six months.

A fan of sweets himself, Demray isn’t going to skip Valentine’s Day, but has some tips for parents to keep in mind:

· Eat Candy at the Right Time —the ideal time is during or after meals. Increased saliva production during meals helps cancel out acids that cause tooth decay and rinse away food particles.

· Avoid Snacking Too Frequently- limit a sugary treat to once a day to lower the risk of tooth decay. The number of times your child eats candy in a day is more important in preventing tooth decay than the amount they consume each time. When you eat even a small piece of candy or sip a surgery drink, bacteria in your mouth very quickly converts sugar to acid which eats away at the tooth. Candy or sugary foods eaten several times a day promotes a much higher cavity risk.

· Pick the Right Candy — sticky candy, like gummy bears cling to your teeth making it much more difficult to rinse away through natural saliva, regular brushing, or flossing.

· Drinking lots of water and balancing eating candy with other healthy foods like dairy products, fruits and lean proteins, fruits, and nuts – for good dental health.

This is also a good time to consider training your child to give up his or her pacifier. Research done by the American Academy of Pediatrics showed there was a reduction of 33% in the number of ear infections in children who gave up continuous pacifier use between six and ten months.

After 12 months,

the pacifier can begin to interfere with speech development.  At the age of four and five, your child’s pacifier can affect the shape of the roof of the mouth and the position of the teeth.

Realizing giving up the pacifier or “binky” can be daunting or even traumatizing for both parents and children, Demray created the “Binky Tree” right outside his office.  For the last 20 years, children with their parents hang the “binky” on a tree branch often during a special little ceremony attended by Demray and his team. Many like the idea of being able to visit “their binky” during their next check-up. The idea is patterned after a world famous “Binky Tree” in Denmark. 

Demray has some tips for parents not in the area.

· Start the weaning process by beginning to limit the use; for example, offer it only at bedtime.

· Try to find alternative calming techniques between six to twelve months and up to two years of age.

· Never use punishment or humiliation to force your child to give up using the pacifier.

· Pick a day…

· Give your child advance notice of the day he/she will give up the “binky.”

· Make a celebration out of it.

To celebrate National Children’s Dental Health Month, Demray has created fun materials to educate younger patients. Click here.  Older kids enjoy a “brushing” calendarcrossword puzzle or word search game – provided by the American Dental Association.

Impact on Poor Oral Health on Children’s School Attendance and Performance.

Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General, 2000.

Early Prevention Dental Visits: Effects on Subsequent Utilization and Costs

Surveillance for dental caries, dental sealants, tooth retention, edentulism, and enamel fluorosis. MMWR Surveillance Summaries.2005;54(3):1-44.

The Author

*Photos courtesy of Dr. William Demray, founder of Preservation Dental in Northville, Michigan

Cynthia Tait

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