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Children's dental health

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- To raise awareness on the importance of good oral health, members from the 11th Dental Squadron will be participating in National Children’s Dental Health Month. The month’s activities will kick off with a “Toothbrush Exchange” Jan. 27 from 10 a.m. to noon at the AAFES Exchange on Joint Base Andrews. Children may bring their old toothbrushes to exchange for a new one. This event is limited to the first 40 children.

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, 42 percent of American children ages 2 through 11 have cavities, and 23 percent of those children have untreated cavities. Untreated cavities can lead to pain, infection and even premature tooth loss.

The solution to this problem is through proper dental education, good oral hygiene at home and regular visits to the dentist. It is recommended that both children and adults visit the dentist twice a year. Parents should schedule their child’s first appointment by their first birthday. This appointment consists of mostly education on proper home care and allows both the patient and parent to become acquainted with the dental team to reduce anxiety for future visits.

It is very important to ensure your child develops good oral habits through brushing, flossing and eating a healthy diet. When at home, it is important to show your child it is fun to brush and floss their teeth. This will spark excitement to participate and help them build good oral habits at an early age.

To ensure proper technique and help them obtain a clean mouth, supervise brushing until children are 7 to 8 years old.  Purchase an age appropriate soft tooth brush, preferably with a larger handle so it is easier for them to hold, and use fluoridated toothpaste with the ADA seal of approval. To avoid swallowing too much toothpaste, only use a rice-sized amount for children under three and a pea-sized amount for children over three.

The best brushing method to teach them is to use short, soft circular strokes and to angle the toothbrush at 45 degrees toward the gums; ensure they are cleaning all surfaces of the teeth. Remember to have them brush for an entire two minutes.

You may also wonder when to introduce flossing to your child’s oral health care routine and the answer is when their teeth contact each other. To properly floss, gently slide the floss between the teeth. Then glide it up and down against both sides, following the contours of the tooth. Don’t be alarmed if the floss goes underneath the gums, but when you feel resistance don’t force the floss down any further.

Continue to assist and supervise flossing until children are at least 10 years old. As a parent, make sure you are setting a good example. This will help them maintain optimal oral health at home and develop a positive attitude when seeing the dentist for routine visits. 

A major cause of dental cavities is the frequency of snacking. Most people don’t realize that frequently snacking and sipping on drinks is just as harmful to dental health as the foods and drinks they ingest.  Around 90 percent of food that is consumed has sugars that promote bacterial growth and production in the mouth.

Bacteria metabolizes sugar in foods and produces acid which softens the enamel. This process is called demineralization. Without fluoride and giving the body time to remineralize the enamel, the tooth is weakened and a cavity forms. After just one snack, acid can attack your teeth for at least 20 minutes.

Snacking off and on during the day will cause the acid level in the mouth to remain high. The best way to prevent this is to have your children eat all of their snacks at one time and to refrain from giving them sugary drinks to consume throughout the day. Adding water to their diet can also help wash away the sugars and is a good substitute for juice.

Throughout the month of February, Squadron members will visit the base Child Development Centers, Youth Center and Imagine Andrews Public Charter School to promote oral health. For questions, please contact Andrews Dental Clinic at 240-857-5029.