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February is Children’s Dental Health Month

Posted 2/14/24

February is Children’s Dental Health Month. This observance of oral health helps to raise awareness and reinforce the importance of good oral health in our children as well as to provide …

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February is Children’s Dental Health Month


February is Children’s Dental Health Month. This observance of oral health helps to raise awareness and reinforce the importance of good oral health in our children as well as to provide parents with helpful tips to keep their child’s mouth healthy. 

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), early childhood decay, commonly known as cavities, affects more than 40 percent of children by the time they begin school. 

It is important to keep baby teeth healthy to save space for the adult teeth and to avoid painful cavities. Untreated cavities can cause painful infections and if still left untreated, can possibly spread to the jaw, the surrounding soft tissue and in rare and extreme cases, the heart or brain. 

Here are some suggestions to help your children develop with healthy mouths.

Set up routine dental visits

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that your child should begin seeing a dentist after they get their first tooth or by their first birthday. Check with your dental provider to see at what age they will begin seeing children. 

If your dental practice recommends that you wait until the child is older, reach out to a pediatric specialty. There are pediatric specialty practices in Honesdale, PA; Middletown, NY; and Scranton, PA, as well as a mobile dental van for children in Sullivan County (The PRASAD Project). 

We should keep in mind that this can be a scary experience for children because they tend to relate a doctor’s practice to getting shots or feeling ill. So the earlier you start bringing them to the dentist, the earlier your dental provider can develop a positive rapport and catch any issues relating to your child’s oral health.

Make healthy food choices

Providing our children with healthy food choices is good for both oral and overall health; however, sometimes it can be confusing. Fruit is healthy, so fruit snacks should be a good choice, right? 

Unfortunately, fruit snacks such as gummies and even raisins are detrimental to our children’s teeth. Fruit snacks are high in sugar, and because of their stickiness, they get stuck in all the little nooks and crannies in the teeth for extended periods of time. 

Instead, try fresh fruit (strawberries, apples and pears); fresh veggies (celery or broccoli, perhaps with a little hummus or tzatziki?); cheese; and some of the softer nuts such as cashews and walnuts.


Sealants are used to protect the chewing surfaces of molars. Remember I mentioned that our teeth have a lot of nooks and crannies? Well, it can be difficult for children to effectively brush those groovy chewing surfaces of their molars. 

It is recommended that as soon as the chewing surface has erupted, which is around the age of six and then again around the age of 12, to have sealants placed on the teeth. This provides an added layer of protection while they are developing their brushing skills.


X-rays on teeth are necessary to be able to provide a thorough exam. Your dental provider cannot see what is going on between the teeth or under the gums. It’s also an opportunity to see how your child’s teeth are developing under the gums. However, although radiation exposure is low, especially if your dental provider is using digital radiography, the ADA does have recommended guidelines for when to take them. Review these guidelines with your practitioner to help with your informed decisions. 


There are several types of topical fluoride available to help promote strong teeth. If you didn’t already know, topical fluoride helps to protect teeth from getting cavities. Topical fluoride means that it is put on the tooth that is in the mouth. 

Most children’s toothpaste has fluoride in it, so you do want to be sure that your child does not swallow this. When brushing your child’s teeth, make sure they spit their toothpaste out after brushing. If your child is very young, they may not quite grasp the concept of spitting, so it may be better to use a toothpaste without fluoride until they are able to spit it out. 

For children under age three using a fluoridated toothpaste, only use a smear of toothpaste on the brush. Around the age of three is when you can up that to a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.

Brush and floss

Brushing and flossing teeth is key for good oral health. Brushing is recommended at least twice a day for at least two minutes and flossing is recommended once a day and cleans the sides of the teeth that the toothbrush can’t reach. 

Ultimately, it is the parent’s responsibility to help their children with brushing and flossing. Children under the age of six need their parents to brush and floss for them until they hone their skills and can do it on their own. I realize that this could be like wrestling an alligator, but in time, they will accept it. 

Children (and teenagers) need parental support and guidance and must be led by the example that good oral health will benefit them not only now, but for the rest of their lives. 

Kristin Hofer, RDH, MS, FADHA, is an associate professor of dental hygiene. 

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