National Children’s Dental Health Month: Are You Taking Care of Your Child’s Teeth Correctly?

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, and a recent study has highlighted how we may be starting kids out all wrong when they are brushing their teeth.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed a survey on brushing habits and found that children are using too much toothpaste. The harm in that is that while fluoride is what protects our teeth from cavities, the kids may be ingesting too much.

The study looked at data gathered from children ages 3 to 15 regarding their toothpaste usage and tooth brushing habits. It found that 38 percent of children between ages 3 and 6 are using more than the recommended amount of toothpaste.

How much toothpaste should be used? Think about the size of a pea and how small that is. That is what the CDC recommends for ages 3 to 6. The CDC recommends toothpaste the size of a rice grain for children under age 3. If children ingest an excessive amount of fluoride, it can discolor and pit their permanent teeth.  

The CDC study also found that children’s teeth brushing practices were not in line with federal guidelines. Nearly 80 percent of parents weren’t brushing their children’s teeth early enough.

Many parents question why it is so important to brush baby teeth. The reason is that about one in five children ages 5 to 11 years old have at least one untreated decayed tooth. Starting a good oral hygiene routine early can help prevent this problem.

The CDC recommends the following for babies:

  • Wipe gums twice a day with a soft, clean cloth in the morning after the first feeding and in the evening right before bed.
  • When teeth start to come in, brush twice a day with plain tap water and a soft bristled brush.
  • Visit the dentist by your baby’s first birthday.

The CDC recommends the following for children ages 2 to 6:

  • Brush their teeth twice a day with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
  • Make sure that they spit out the toothpaste rather than swallow.
  • Help your child brush until they have good brushing skills.
  • Drink tap water that contains fluoride.

The important takeaway is that fluoride is a good thing for teeth, but children should use very small amounts and not ingest it. It’s never too early to start good oral hygiene in children, and if you follow best practices, they are more likely to have healthy teeth as they grow. If you have questions about children’s tooth brushing, please contact Enlighten Dental Care at (336) 765.0904.

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