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2/16/23 – National Children’s Dental Health Month

Last updated: March 2, 2023

Hi, I’m Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman, the Health Officer for Anne Arundel County. Welcome to our Weekly Health Update. Cavities, or tooth decay, are preventable yet they’re the most common chronic disease of childhood. Since it’s National Children’s Dental Health Month, now is a good time to talk about children and oral health.

Why is children’s oral health important?
Untreated cavities can cause pain, infections, and can lead to problems eating, speaking, and learning. Children who have poor oral health often miss more school and receive lower grades than children who don’t.

What are the risk factors for getting cavities?
Your child’s chance of getting cavities are higher if:

  • Family members have cavities.
  • They eat and drink a lot of sugary foods and drinks, like soda, especially between meals.
  • They have special health care needs.
  • They wear braces or retainers.

How much do food and drink matter?
Food and drink matter a lot. Your child’s diet is very important for developing and maintaining strong and healthy teeth. It’s helpful to include good sources of calcium to help build strong teeth. Drinking water, instead of juice or sugary drinks, can also make a big difference.

How can you prevent cavities in babies?
There are steps you can take early in a child’s life

  • For babies without teeth, wipe their gums twice a day with a soft, clean cloth in the morning and before bed.
  • When teeth come in, start brushing twice a day with a soft, small‑bristled toothbrush and a small amount of toothpaste with fluoride.
  • Visit the dentist by your baby’s first birthday to spot signs of early problems.
  • If you don’t have dental insurance, reach out to the Department of Health.

What about for older children?
As children grow older:

  • Help them brush their teeth twice a day until they have good brushing skills.
  • Once they learn how to brush their own teeth, watch them brush to make sure they’re doing a good job.
  • Use a toothpaste with fluoride.
  • Make sure they get dental sealants as they start to get their molars.

Your child’s oral health affects more than just their mouth, it affects their overall health and how they do in school.

Stay safe and be kind to yourself and others. We’ll see you next week.

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