National Children’s Dental Health Month

Child with candy in mouth for dental health month

Each year in February, the American Dental Association, along with dental health care professionals, teachers and caregivers celebrate good oral health habits by promoting awareness to dental health needs in children, tweens and teens. This year’s slogan is “Sugar Wars” and the ongoing fight against sugar invaders! (ADA) The campaign highlights the value of a cavity free lifestyle, provides education on proper brushing and flossing techniques and making teeth friendly food and drink choices, reducing sugar in our diets. Presentations, games, coloring books and contests, along with take home dental supplies are a few examples of how dental teams and educators across the nation are teaching children the importance of healthy teeth. Starting early and learning good habits young have been proven to instill lifelong habits and save teeth.

It is estimated that on average 115-130 million Americans do not have dental insurance, affecting approximately 28,000,000 children and adolescents annually (, National Assoc. of Dental Plans). With dental caries (cavities) being the most common childhood disease in the U.S., affecting children between the ages of 6-19 years, a war against damaging plaque and cavity causing bacteria must be waged. Because science has proven a correlation between heart disease and diabetes with a lack of regular dental care, educating children, parents and caregivers to proper daily habits like brushing, flossing and fluoride use gives patients the tools to fight the battle against poor dental health and WIN!

NCDHM_youth_1200x900In The Beginning…

Teeth begin forming in utero and by the second trimester tooth buds for baby teeth are present in the jaw and in position for eventual eruption. In addition, the adult teeth are also templated in these early years for growth to replace the primary dentition. During this time, a mother’s diet and medication choices need to be monitored as low levels of some vitamins or the use of some medications can have a permanent effect on developing teeth. At approximately six months of age, primary teeth begin erupting and continue until about 2 ½ years old. By three years of age, a full dentition of 20 baby teeth are present, 10 on top and 10 on the bottom, comprised of four incisors, two cuspids(canine) and four molars in each arch. Spaces between the baby teeth are normal and, in fact, desirable, as they allow room for the eventual eruption of the larger permanent teeth. Maintaining good health of the baby teeth is crucial as they: maintain the space for the permanent teeth, allow for proper chewing and digestion with more nutritionally valued foods like vegetables, fruit and proteins, maintain proper facial appearance and shape, and aid in speech. In addition, baby teeth with deep decay can affect the permanent teeth, passing the decay onto the un-erupted adult teeth before they are even above the gum line. Cleaning baby teeth with a small brush, damp washcloth or finger swabs should begin as soon as the first tooth is visible. Parental assistance with brushing and flossing is necessary for complete plaque removal and is recommended even after the permanent teeth come in. As the child reaches school age, toothbrushing with a timer is always a great way to ensure a thorough technique. Two minutes is the recommended time for brushing in children and adolescents. This time should reach a minimum of three minutes with high- schoolers and adults who are using a manual toothbrush.

Botany 101…

Deciduous teeth begin to exfoliate at about six years of age. Researchers know this by counting the number of “rings” on the children’s little fingers!… HA! Just kidding!…. But this does read like a college biology book on plant science doesn’t it? Well, it is true…deciduous teeth, or baby teeth as we all know them, become loose at around six years of age and all 20 teeth are eventually replaced by the permanent or secondary dentition. In addition to the replacement 20, each quadrant, or quarter of the mouth houses three additional molars, erupting at approximately 6 years, 12 years, and 17-18 years of age (these later molars being the wisdom teeth…a definite misnomer there!). In addition to the two front lower incisors, the first permanent molars make their debut appearance at about the same time (six years old…give or take) and stay with us hopefully for life! Preventative care and good habits are imperative to maintaining not only good dental health but also good physical health for the remaining 70 plus years these teeth will be with us.
By approximately 12-13 years old, and after the permanent second molars erupt, all permanent teeth are above the gum line, with the exception of the wisdom teeth or third molars. During a child’s growing years, it is important to watch how the jaw matures and grows as well. If no early intervention is required, orthodontics can begin soon after the last baby tooth is lost. However, if expansion of a jaw or arch is recommended, orthodontics may begin as early as eight years of age or younger. All decisions are based on the amount of expansion needed, the severity of the bite and the acceptance and tolerance of the child. Widening the arch provides more space for overcrowding, alignment of the top and bottom arches, and can minimize the overall length of time in brackets while in orthodontic treatment.

“Teach the children so that it will not be necessary to teach the adults.”
Abraham Lincoln

A Long term mission of the dental profession has always been to reduce or eliminate childhood tooth decay. As previously mentioned, tooth decay is the leading childhood disease in this country, being seven times more prevalent than hay fever and five times more prevalent than asthma. Over the years we have seen a significant reduction in child caries with the help of fluoride pastes, education, diet, improved habits and regular dental visits. In addition, the placement of dental sealants and implementation of fluoridated city water supplies has been proven to have a positive impact on the caries epidemic. With the introduction of fluoride to the water in the 60’s, there was statistically a reduction in cavities. This achievement is thought to be one of the greatest of the 20th century (CDC). Placement of sealants, a plastic coating over the biting surfaces of permanent molars and premolars, has also crushed rampant caries statistics, however their use is still below par and increasing awareness is vital to reap their benefits. That being said, fluctuations in the number of cavities nationally has also been noted, and in the last ten years there has been an increase in the prevalence of decay since the sharper decline of the 80’s and 90’s. Bottled water, medications causing dry mouth and an influx of immigrants has been recognized as influencing the declination of caries control.

They say it takes a village to raise a child and here at Seidner Dentistry we are a supportive, dedicated and determined hamlet devoted to helping all children live a cavity free life!

#NCDHM #SugarWars

julia – By Julia Guerra, RDH, BA


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