FEBRUARY IS National Children's Dental Health Month, sponsored by the American Dental Association (ADA).
The idea behind the month-long advocacy of kids' dental health is designed to instill good dental care habits in young people at an early age.
One way that kids can receive an early, positive introduction to regular dental check-ups is to accompany their parents during one of their bi-annual cleanings.
"We like to have the parents bring in the kids with them when they have a cleaning, watch their parents, see how the appointment goes," said Chris Wine, D.D.S of Just Smiles in the Elm Grove section of Wheeling. "It's real important for the kids to be comfortable with the dentist and realize we are there for their well being."
The sooner the better too.
While many dentists agree that kids should be brought in by age two for their first checkup, and no later than age three, studies have begun to show that once a child turns one, that initial dental check-up should be scheduled.
By the time kids start school, 1-in-4 will have already begun to have cavities. By the time the teenage years roll around, that figure doubles.
"When a child experiences tooth decay in their baby teeth, they are more likely to have tooth decay in their permanent teeth," said Paul S. Cassamassimo, D.D.S., the head of dentistry at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus during a recent interview. "It begins a process that is difficult to stop."
Cassamassimo recommends getting a baby off using a bottle as quickly as possible and introduce brushing and flossing early to initiate proper dental care habits.
Wine agrees with Cassamassimo in that the continued intake of sugar, more so than the amount, is a major factor in tooth decay in children.
"A lot of parents, not knowingly, aren't limiting the frequency of sugars that their kids have," Wine said. "They will give their kids juice and a bottle, and while juice has some nutrition, that constant consumption of sugar is one of the major factors in producing cavities.
"In my opinion, the frequency is more detrimental than the amount of consumption. That constant source of sugar is going to bring about a favorable environment for the formation of cavities."
Cassamassimo recommends limiting sugar intake, particularly with drinks, to meal times only and to not allow kids to have sugar-type drinks scattered throughout the day.
That, coupled with proper brushing and flushing, can help combat cavities.
Wine is also a big proponent of fluoride, both in drinking water and in use as a rinse after daily brushing.