by Jenna Simmons
April is Canada’s National Oral Health month. Good oral health is important and can relate to good overall health. Oral pain, tooth decay, missing teeth and infections can decrease a person’s quality of life.
Tooth decay in children is prevalent in today’s society and there are many people that do not view this as an issue. Missing teeth or pain from decay can cause a child to be unable to eat. This can relate to lack of nutrition which can decrease a child’s overall well-being.
Infections and abscessed teeth can cause a child to become very ill if they are not seen by a dentist. These infections can potentially spread to other parts of the body and become life-threatening.
The Canadian Dental Association has published “Five Steps to a healthy mouth:”
Keep your mouth and your children’s mouths clean, using a soft-bristle toothbrush two times daily with fluoride toothpaste. For children age 1-3, it’s recommended to use an amount of toothpaste equal to a grain of rice, and pea-sized for children over 3 years old. Also, floss daily at night to remove food from in-between teeth. Before your child has any teeth, wipe out their mouths out using a clean facecloth cloth to ensure their gums are clean.
Check yours and your child’s mouth. It is important for parents to be brushing and flossing their children’s teeth until they are at least nine years old. Children do not have the dexterity to remove all the plaque that might be in their mouth. On top of regular dental exams it is also important to be checking your child’s mouth frequently. Chalky white spots near to gum line can be the first signs of decay; as well as brown, yellow or black spots or holes. Lift the lips up and check on the gum line for pimples or anything out of the ordinary, which can be a sign of infection or abscess. Never hesitate to book your child into the dentist if anything ever looks suspicious.
Eat well! Snacks between meals should be given in one sitting. Some good choices for snacks are nuts, cheese, vegetables and non-acidic fruits (bananas, cantaloupe and apples are good examples). It is also important to regulate juice intake. Offer water instead and do not allow children to sip juice, milk or sugary drinks all day. It is best to only have sugary drinks with meals. One of the highest risks for early childhood dental caries (cavities) is sending a child to bed with a bottle filled with milk or juice.
See your dentist regularly. Children can get decay as soon as they get their teeth, which is why it is recommended that your child’s first dental visit is when they are around one year old.
Do not smoke or chew tobacco. This has been linked to oral cancer and gum disease. Be a good example to your children in showing that you keep your mouth healthy like they should.
Alberta Child Health Benefits is for families with limited income that may not have insurance or money to go to the dentist or other medical providers. Any questions? Please visit http://www.humanservices.alberta.ca/awonline or call 1-877-469-5437. Alberta Health Services also offers a free dental screening and fluoride for eligible children. Please call your local health unit with questions or visit www.ahs.ca/oralhealth.
Jenna Simmons is a Dental Hygienist with the AHS Population Health Promotion Program in South Zone. She can be reached by e-mail, [email protected]