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Dental Health for Kids

Why is it that the dental health of American children has significantly improved over their parent’s oral health? Because children today have the benefit of fluoride and sealants that were either not available or available to a much lesser extent than when their parents were young. Here are some guidelines for dental health parents may consider as their child grows and develops.

Before Birth – Finish All Dental Work

To continue improvement in the oral health of children, parents must be diligent even before their birth. Unbeknownst to most parents and providers, dental cavities are transferred from parents (primarily mothers) to their young offspring. Newborns are not born with the primary bacteria (Streptococcus mutans) necessary to cause dental cavities. Therefore it is recommended that parents have their dental treatment completed before the birth of their child so that the transference of Strep mutans occurs later in life and in lower concentrations putting the child at less risk for developing cavities.

Infancy – Bedtime Bottles Should Only Contain Water

Another important fact to remember is never put your baby to bed with a bottle filled with anything but water. Milk, fruit drinks, apple juice, or sugar water in a bottle overnight can wreak havoc with developing teeth, often responsible for hospitalization of the child to treat rampant dental cavities.


Cheat Sheet for Parents:

  • Before birth – Finish all dental work
  • Infancy – Bedtime bottles should only have water
  • When teeth first come in – Begin brushing
  • At 6 months – Check fluoride levels
  • At 1 year – Begin semi-annual exams
  • At 7-8 and 12 years old – Apply dental sealants


When Teeth First Come In – Begin Brushing

Also, in order to prevent early dental cavities start brushing his or her teeth as soon as they erupt with very little toothpaste twice a day: once in the morning and again, just before bed in the evening. This pattern started early will develop into a healthy habit, which he or she will continue through a lifetime.

At 6 months – Check Fluoride Levels

Also at about six months of age, it should be determined by your pediatrician, family physician, or dentist if he or she is receiving optimal fluoride levels or if a fluoride supplement is needed.

At 1 year – Begin Semi-Annual Exams

By one year of age, your child should have his or her first dental examination and continue every six months thereafter in order to maintain good oral health for a lifetime. Regular dental checkups with your dentist is the only way to maintain good oral health and to identify any dental problems.

At 7-8 and 12 Years Old – Apply Dental Sealants

In addition, dental sealants usage is a relatively new preventative procedure in preventing dental cavities in newly erupted permanent back teeth (molars) and should be placed on six year molars and again on twelve year molars.

Anerican ChildrenHealthy Smiles Sealant Program

Because not all children are able to receive routine dental care or sealants, some programs have been initiated to increase access to dental care (dental disease is the number one unmet health care need in Ohio) and ensure all children receive the dental care they need. Some services of the Healthy Smiles Sealant Program are to:

  • Examine all second, third, and sixth graders with a signed consent form in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District
  • Place sealants on all at-risk permanent molar teeth free of charge
  • Refer all children in need of additional care to community dentists
  • Educate all children from pre-kindergarten through third grade and sixth graders in an effort to increase their dental knowledge and promote the best oral and dental health possible

Dental health programs are available in other cities, so check to see if there’s one in your area. You can find more information about the Healthy Smiles Sealant Program at Establishing, Funding, And Sustaining A University Outreach Program In Oral Health.

Always remember, good oral health is also important in promoting good general health.

For more information:

Go to the Dental and Oral Health (Children) health topic.