Keep Children’s Smiles Healthy

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Alycia Miller
  • 82nd Dental Squadron
The way children care for their bodies today will have an impact throughout their life. Preventive dental care and public fluoridation have combined to dramatically improve the oral health of American children. It's now possible for many children to reach adulthood without ever experiencing tooth decay.

February is National Children's Dental Health Month and the Sheppard Dental Clinic has these tips for parents and caregivers:

· Take children to see the dentist regularly- when the very first teeth appear then twice is nice every year.
· Keep water in the child's cup or bottle because the sugars in many juices can be disastrous to their teeth.
· Start brushing as soon as the very first tooth appears. Make it fun and build up to a longer session once more teeth begin to show.
· Start the flossing process as soon as two teeth touch; teach them using a mirror, so they can see what you are doing.
· Observe your child brush their teeth. Many children lack the manual dexterity to effectively brush until age five or six. Flossing skills won't come in until even later.

Your dentist or hygienist can greatly assist in this learning process during the recommended twice per year visits.

Make certain that your child receives the proper amount of fluoride to prevent the formation of cavities. Fluoride strengthens the enamel--the hard outer layer of the tooth.

Your dentist or hygienist can apply fluoride. You can also purchase an over the counter fluoride rinse, provided your child understands that he or she should not swallow the rinse, but spit it out.

Be aware of items that have a high association with cavity formation to include sodas, frequent juice consumption, candy (especially sticky candies such as caramel and gummy snacks) and food saturated in syrup.

One way to help prevent the formation of cavities is to speak with your dentist about sealants, or thin protective barriers placed on the tooth applied at the dental office. Sealants protect the grooves of back teeth helping to prevent decay, but will not replace brushing and flossing.

If the steps described above are carried out regularly, you will set the foundation for a lifetime of dental health for your children.

Remember, The TRICARE Family Member Dental Plan provides for two dental visits a year and each visit includes an examination and a cleaning. Also, these visits have no associated co-payment. Please take advantage of this excellent benefit.