As National Children’s Dental Health Month comes to a close, The Daily sat down with School of Dental Medicine Assistant Professor Margaret Ferretti to brush up on the importance of pediatric dental health—and to learn about some common misconceptions. A professor in the Pediatric Dentistry Department, Ferretti notes how proper pediatric dental care, or lack thereof, can impact the overall well-being of a child.
Read on to learn what Ferretti thinks are the top five things you should know about pediatric dental and oral health.
1. Tooth decay is one of the most common chronic diseases of childhood in the United States.
Tooth decay, like a dental cavity, is five times more common than asthma in U.S. children. Untreated cavities in children lead to more issues beyond their oral health.
Children who have poor oral health often miss more school and receive lower grades than children who do not. It can lead to pain and infections which create problems with eating, speaking, playing and learning.
2. Childhood tooth decay is preventable.
Some preventative measures include fluoride varnish that can help reduce the risk of decay in primary teeth by 33%. Dental sealants can also help prevent cavities with up to an 80% reduced risk.
Brushing with fluoride toothpaste twice a day helps to reduce the risk of tooth decay in children, and the amount of fluoride varies with age. For ages 0-36 months a smear or the size of a grain of rice should be applied two times a day and the excess wiped off afterwards with an age-appropriate sized toothbrush. For ages 3-6 the size of a pea should be applied two times a day and the child should be encouraged to spit out the excess.
3. Baby teeth are important.
A common misconception of pediatric dentistry is that baby teeth fall out eventually so it isn’t necessary to care for them the same way we do adult teeth.
In order to prevent dental problems, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children should see a dentist when the first tooth appears, or no later than their first birthday. Primary teeth play a critical role in not only helping children chew, which is necessary for good nutrition, but also play a significant role in speech development, and save space for permanent teeth to erupt properly.
4. Healthy habits start early.
One of the most important aspects of pediatric dentistry is helping a child to develop good oral health care habits. Early care and preventive measures that are implemented when children are young are more likely to make an impact throughout the life of a child.
Establishing those early oral health care habits is both good for childhood dental hygiene as well as life-long habits into adulthood.
5. Pediatric dentistry promotes the overall health and well-being of a child.
Dentists play a crucial role in the development of a child’s healthy body and mind. Children should be able to smile without feeling self-conscious. Malaligned teeth and pain from dental disease can have a major impact on a child’s social and psychological development. It is not uncommon for children with dental issues to fall victim to bullying, and if children are embarrassed to smile in front of their peers, they may be reluctant to participate in social activities.
Inspired to make a dentist appointment for your child? Check out the Pediatric Dental Clinic at Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine.