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February is National Children's Dental Health Month

February is National Children’s Dental Health month and we want to celebrate healthy mouths by educating and informing. Parents play a huge role in maintaining a child’s oral health. They are like captains of a ship, steering their children down the narrow path to great oral health. Like any ship, there will be obstacles and treacherous waters to push through. When it comes to oral health, sugar is one of those obstacles.

Sugars lead to tooth decay, one of the worst conditions for children within the United States. Tooth decay in children can lead to painful toothaches and infections. Although completely preventable, 20% of children ages 5 to 11 suffer from tooth decay.

We stand united in the American Dental Association and ADA Foundation in their efforts to battle tooth decay and their National Children’s Dental Health month theme: Sugar Wars.

Why Oral Health Matters for Children

A child’s smile is important to the way they feel about themselves, talk and eat. Parents who take the time to educate their children on the importance of routine oral care are establishing a foundation that will benefit their children later in life. With only one set of permanent teeth, children who know how to care for their teeth, gums and mouth will likely have a healthy smile throughout their lives.

Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Play a Significant Role in Tooth Decay

One of the biggest contributing factors to increased tooth decay is the consumption of sugary drinks. Over the past 30 years, Americans increasingly consumed more sugary drinks, prompting the American Heart Association to recommend a consumption limit of 450 kilocalories of sugar-sweetened drinks each week (approximately the size of a 12-ounce can of carbonated cola per week). From the ages of 2 to 19, the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks increases throughout the population. In particular, 70% of boys in this demographic consume sugar-sweetened beverages each day.

How to Combat the Effects of Sugar

Parents who are able to reduce their child’s consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and other types of sugar early, increase their chances of preventing tooth decay. The following are some ways parents can reduce their child’s consumption of sugar:

  • Avoid beverages that have sugar added.
  • Substitute sweet snacks with fruits and vegetables.
  • Substitute sugar with sweeteners in recipes.
  • Teach the importance of brushing, flossing and rinsing daily.
  • Take children to the dentist as prescribed by their dentist.

There are many other ways parents can reduce their child’s sugar consumption, however, these tips are a great starting point for parents. It’s important that parents keep in mind that they don’t have to completely eliminate sugar; they simply have to reduce their child’s consumption since too much sugar threatens their teeth.

As we approach February, the National Children’s Dental Health month, we encourage all parents to protect their child’s teeth by steering them clear of sugary beverages and foods. Make the change to become a habit, by weaning your children off sugar slowly, creating a healthy mouth for years to come.

And if your child is nervous about visiting the dentist, be sure to check out our blog post with tips to get them ready and to check out the ADA's Mouth Healthy Kids website for fun activities!





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