Early Dental Visits Essential to Children's Health

February is National Children's Dental Health Month. It's sponsored each year by the American Dental Association to raise awareness among families and policymakers about the critical importance to children of good practices of oral health.

"Oral health is such an important part of a child's overall good health, and yet it can be overlooked in young children" said Dr. Mark J. Feldman, ADA president. "Good oral health practices should begin with an introductory dental visit before a child's first birthday."

"Children's teeth are meant to last a lifetime" Dr. Feldman added, "and with proper care, a balanced diet and regular dental visits, children can have a lifetime of healthy smiles."

The ADA recommends regular dental check-ups, including a visit to the dentist within six months of the eruption of the first tooth, and no later than the child's first birthday. Preventive care such as cleanings and, if necessary, fluoride treatments provide children with 'smile' insurance. Routine dental exams uncover problems that can be easily treated in the early stages, when damage is minimal.

Dental sealants are used to protect the chewing surfaces from tooth decay, the single most common chronic childhood disease. Your dentist can help prevent or reduce the incidence of decay by applying sealants to your child's teeth.

A sealant is a clear or tooth-colored plastic material that is applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth where decay occurs most often. Sealants protect normal depressions and grooves in the teeth called pits and fissures, which are particularly susceptible to tooth decay.

Any child involved in a recreational activity, such as soccer, hockey, football, skating, riding a scooter and even bicycling should wear a mouth guard. There are 'stock' mouth guards available in stores and a better-fitting variety, which are custom fitted by your dentist. Ask your dentist about using a mouth protector.

Please contact the ADA if you have questions about this article.

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