A PARENT'S GUIDE TO CHILDREN'S DENTAL HEALTH
Updated: Feb 24
In honor of National Children's Dental Month, we thought we thought it would be a good time to share the latest findings, information, and resources to help parents make more informed decisions when it comes to their child's dental and oral health.
The National Children's Dental movement was started in 1949 as a single day and is now a month-long event. The American Dental Association (ADA) states that developing good habits at an early age and scheduling regular dental visits helps children to get a good start on a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), when it comes to cavities and general tooth health:
More than half of children aged 6 to 8 have had a cavity in at least one of their baby (primary) teeth
More than half of adolescents aged 12 to 19 have had a cavity in at least one of their permanent teeth
Children aged 5 to 19 years from low-income families are twice as likely (25%) to have cavities, compared with children from higher-income households (11%)
It is important for a child's physical, mental, and emotional well-being to have good oral health. The consequences of poor oral health extend beyond tooth decay and gum disease. There is a possibility that it could lead to lifelong issues with diabetes, heart disease, digestive issues, issues with speech, dementia, and even terminal illnesses.
A 2013 study published in the National Library of Medicine noted that poor dental health is significantly associated with reductions in school performance and psychosocial well-being in children:
Children with dental problems were more likely to have problems at school and to miss school and were less likely to do all required homework
Dental problems were associated with shyness, unhappiness, feelings of worthlessness, and reduced friendliness (these feelings were largest for adolescents between 15 and 17 years)
RECOMMENDED DENTAL CARE FOR CHILDREN
A baby's oral health begins before they get their first tooth. Teeth may not be visible, but that does not mean they are not there. The formation of teeth actually begins in the second trimester of pregnancy. There are 20 primary teeth in your baby's mouth at birth, some of which are fully developed in the jaw.
The ADA recommends that children see a dentist by their first birthday. These early visits can help identify problems, such as those with their teeth, tongue, and airway. Additionally, they will help your child get used to visiting the dentist so they'll have less fear about going as they get older.
Starting at birth, run a clean, damp washcloth over your baby's gums to clear away any potentially harmful bacteria
When your baby gets teeth, brush them with an infant toothbrush using water and a tiny bit of ADA seal of acceptance fluoride toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice)
At the point that two of your baby's teeth begin to touch, you can begin gently flossing between them
Around age 2 is a good time to teach your child to spit while brushing; however, you may want to avoid giving your child water to swish and spit because this can make swallowing toothpaste more likely
Children between the ages of 3 and 8 should use only a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste and should be supervised, in order to ensure they don't swallow the toothpaste
Children, starting at 12 months of age, should have regularly scheduled dental visits
Should your child complains of tooth pain you should call your dentist as this could be a sign of a cavity that needs treatment
Tooth decay is one of the most common chronic childhood diseases. By age 2, 10% of all children have had a cavity. That increases to 28% by age 3 and 50% by age 5! If untreated, tooth decay can progress quickly causing teeth to break down.
It is worth noting that according to the AAPD and other studies, it is believed that amalgam and other metal fillings contain mercury and other toxic metals that may be harmful to a child's health. This is why composite fillings are recommended as they are safe and are made of a biocompatible material. If you have a concern about the potential impacts of amalgam fillings, discuss it with your dentist, and together, determine the best solution for your child.
HOW MOUTH BREATHING IMPACTS YOUR CHILD'S ORAL HEALTH
The consequences of a child's poor oral health go far beyond tooth decay and gum disease. Oral health also encompasses your child's jaw alignment and oral cavity --- both of which can impact your child's ability to breathe properly.
Mouth breathing (often caused due airway dysfunction) can have long-term impacts on both your child's oral and long-term health including:
Decreasing your child's quality of sleep ---- causing sleep apnea and sleep-disordered breathing
Causing poorly functioning auto-immune system
Decreasing brain function and lower IQ up to 10 points --- can also be misdiagnosed as having ADHD
Impacting speech and swelling capabilities
Increasing risk for dental complications
Causing anxiety, panic attacks, and aggressive behavior
Posture problems and muscle fatigue
Additionally, mouth breathing causes your child's mouth to dry out, which in turn, creates a damaging effect on the normal process of the oral cavity. A dry mouth can increase acidity, putting your child at greater risk of gum disease.
A dry mouth means that saliva cannot perform the role it's meant to in your child's mouth. What is the role of saliva? It's there to protect teeth and gums by neutralizing harmful acids. It also acts as a protective barrier, preventing bacteria from growing in the mouth.
Many children who are mouth breathers during the day, may also have the following symptoms:
Increased crying or bedwetting episodes at night
Waking with a dry mouth or sore throat
Trouble waking up
Problems concentrating at school; brain fog
Being diagnosed with ADHD
Chronic anxiety and allergies
One of the best ways to tell if your child is a mouth breather is to watch them sleep. If they sleep with their mouth open or snore, chances are they are chronic mouth breathers and have an underlying condition that you want to bring to the attention of your pediatrician or airway-centric dentist.
PARENT DENTAL CARE RESOURCES
Below are links and dental resources we believe parents will find useful, including an airway-focused dental provider finder:
Oral Health During Pregnancy - American Academy of Pediatrics
How to Find Free or Reduced Dental Care for Children - Healthline
Use the provider finder below, powered by Airway Health Solutions, to find an airway-focused dental provider in your area: