Dentists: Teach Kids Good Dental Hygiene for a Lifetime of Smiles


February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, giving parents another reason to watch their children’s intake of Valentine candy this week. Pediatric dentists say cavities appear to be on the rise among kids in Illinois and elsewhere. Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Amr Moursi, president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, said the pandemic made matters worse. Children were at home and snacking more often, and routine checkups ended for a while. Morsi noted more than half of children ages six to 11 have cavities.

“In a state with a large rural population, we see this prevalence of cavities that can really be more than just about a toothache in a tooth,” Morsi emphasized. “It really affects children’s overall health.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children from low-income families or marginalized communities are twice as likely to have cavities as children from higher-income households. It also reports that kids with poor oral health tend to miss more school and get lower grades than children who don’t. To help prevent cavities and tooth decay, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends children see a dentist before their first birthday. Moursi added the sooner they begin regular dental checkups, the healthier a child’s mouth will be.

“One of the most important things we do during those dental appointments is, look for problems and try to identify them early,” Moursi stressed. “If you don’t take your child to the dentist regularly, that small cavity — that beginning of a cavity that we might be able to identify early — now grows into a much larger problem.”

He advised parents to ensure children have a healthy, balanced diet, and limit sugary foods and drinks to help avoid tooth decay. And as with adults, brushing with a fluoride toothpaste and flossing twice a day will also prevent problems.

Mark Richardson

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