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February is National Children's Dental Health Month

Across the United States, February is celebrated as National Childrens Dental Health Month. During this time, the American Dental Association and dentists nationwide strongly emphasize the necessity of proper oral care for children. Dr. Richard L. Foreman, who operates his own general dentistry practice in Rouses Point, said there are several steps parents can take to make sure their child is on the right path to good oral health. Proper brushing is one of the main ways to do just that. When children are very young, he advised it is best for parents to brush their childs teeth to ensure a thorough cleaning. Infants, also, should not go to bed with bottles of juice or milk, as both contain forms of sugars which can lead to early decay. Bottles of water should be used instead, he said. When it comes to sweets, its not so much the amount as it is the frequency of what is being eaten, Dr. Foreman said. While it is difficult for some to eliminate sweets altogether, the key is the same with many things moderation. Eating small amounts of candy all day is worse for your teeth than eating a larger amount in one sitting, said Dr. Foreman. The constant exposure to sugar on the gums and teeth throughout a day essentially does more damage, he explained, especially to those who are more prone to developing cavities. It has to do with how long the sugar stays in the mouth, he further explained. Tootsie Rolls are much more cavity causing than say a can of soda, which is probably as sweet and acidic at the same time. With the soda, though, as soon as you swallow it, its gone. Where the Tootsie Roll, youre still trying to get that out of your teeth an hour later. Even a healthy snack such as raisins can cause cavities, he added. The stickiness of the sweet treats can cause them to become stuck in ones teeth, having just as devastating effects on teeth and gums as candy. Sugar really isnt good for you, but we all enjoy it, admitted Dr. Foreman. If you can cut sweets down to a minimum, thats one of the best things you can do for your teeth. The main way to help ensure a child will take care of his or her teeth for years to come is to instill the importance of oral hygiene from an early age, said Dr. Foreman. The American Dental Association recommends children be examined by a dentist twice a year after their first year of birth, though Dr. Foreman admits that may be difficult for some children. The easiest way to acclimate children to the idea of having a dental exam is for them to see their parents go through one of their own, he said. I always encourage parents to bring their child when they get their own check-up, said Dr. Foreman. It takes a lot of the fear factor out for kids. Dr. Foreman noted parents should understand some children wont warm up to the idea at first, but, with time, theyll become more used to the notion. When selecting a dentist for your child, Dr. Foreman also suggests parents wear the hat of the consumer, searching not only the best care, but for a dentist with whom your child will feel comfortable. There are lots of good dentists who are not particularly child-friendly and there are lots of child-friendly dentists who arent particularly good dentists, said Dr. Foreman. You really have to find one who best suits you or your child. Until that time and even after your child begins regularly seeing a dentist, Dr. Foreman notes oral care at home should remain a priority. Children and adults should brush using fluoridated toothpaste twice daily, making sure not to neglect the roof of the mouth and the tongue, where bacteria also builds. Children should also begin flossing as soon as they are able to properly manipulate dental floss. Checking with your dentist about having a sealant applied to your childs teeth is also a way to prevent cavities. Getting an early start on proper oral hygiene is essential to having a better quality of life down the road, said Dr. Foreman. Theres so many things you cant do when you age, Dr. Foreman said. Some people have arthritis and cant enjoy simple pleasures like taking a walk in the woods. Having the simple pleasure of being able to chew your own food, for some, would mean everything. Were living longer and longer and we cant afford to lose teeth foolishly when were young, he added. People dont realize how important their teeth are until theyre gone.

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