Children with healthy mouths are usually happier and healthier overall.
Good oral health habits can decrease the risk of gum infections that can affect overall health. Pain and the risk of serious problems can be reduced when infections are treated quickly. Children have suffered high fevers and even died from severe tooth and gum infections that spread to the brain.
The structure of a child’s mouth can affect the ability to eat, breathe, swallow and speak properly. Healthy baby teeth are important to hold places for permanent adult teeth. Pediatricians can check the shape of a baby’s mouth and recommend ways to correct problems. Severe problems, such as a cleft lip or palate may require surgery.
Care of the mouth begins at birth. Parents and health professionals can look for oral problems that can affect the development of a child. Parents can start a routine of good oral hygiene, so gums and baby teeth stay healthy.
Regular dental check ups can detect and treat oral health problems before they become severe.
Many federal, state, school and private programs pay for oral health care for children in the Mid-South.
Federally funded programs in Tennessee have included Head Start, Women Infants and Children’s program (WIC), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the Water Fluoridation Assistance Program, TennCare and Medicaid. TennCare has a contract with Doral Dental to provide oral health and preventive care to children of low-income families.
The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) has helped many children in the South get dental care.
The Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas Departments of Health have programs to help public school students get preventive dental care. Children with good oral health miss less school. Tooth pain is a big reason for absence.
Mid-South children have benefited from programs in which nurses apply a fluoride varnish to their teeth. Many students have also benefited from dental sealant programs. Sealants create a barrier between teeth and the sugars and bacteria that can cause tooth decay. Sealants in the grooves of molar teeth are effective in preventing cavities.
The combined use of sealants and fluoridation has greatly reduced the rate of tooth decay in children.
There are many wonderful oral health programs. Yet, many children do not receive regular dental care. Some parents put off getting dental care for children, especially when the economy is poor. Many kids in the Mid-South lack dental clinics close to home. Poor children suffer from oral health problems more than wealthier children. Some children lack care because some dental professionals refuse to accept Medicaid, TennCare or certain insurance plans.
Many employers offer health insurance to employees and their families. However, many do not offer dental care.
Children without dental insurance are far less likely to get dental care than those who do have coverage.
What you should do:-
Make sure children get professional care for their teeth and gums every six months.
A child’s first dental visit should be by 18 to 24 months of age. Clean teeth as soon as the first baby tooth shows up.
Stress the importance of good nutrition and oral hygiene to children of all ages.
Teach older children about proper brushing with fluoride toothpaste at least twice daily. Mention flossing, too.
Teach children about the damage that sugar, bacteria, tobacco and alcohol can do to their gums and teeth.
Give kids low-sugar snacks like celery and carrots.
Parents of babies should prevent problems that can develop before a child gets permanent teeth. Thumb sucking can distort a child’s teeth. Some parents cause cavities when they put babies to bed with bottles of milk, soda or fruit juice. Many parents protect their babies by changing over to cups for drinking by the first birthday.
Don’t ignore a child’s tooth or gum pain or bleeding gums. Also keep an eye out for infections, such as cold sores.
Protect a child’s mouth. Children who play sports may need mouth guards. Prevent unintentional injuries to the mouth by teaching good habits and safety. Tell children not to chew on pencils, spoons or other hard items.