Do you know that cavities and tooth decay are the most common childhood disease in the United States?
It is estimated that 60 percent of children today experience tooth decay. One-in-five children in the U.S. will go without dental care and more than 40 percent of children will have tooth decay by the time they start school.
Children with poor oral health are three times more likely to miss school due to dental pain. Tooth pain can distract students, cause their schoolwork to suffer and lead to school absences.
Every child has bacteria living in their mouth. There are specific bacteria that use sugar from the food we eat to produce acids. Over time these acids can eat away at the tooth’s hard surface or enamel causing tooth decay or cavities. Minerals in saliva along with fluoride found in toothpastes and fluoridated water help repair the enamel that’s lost during acid attacks. Teeth go through the process of losing and regaining mineral all day long in a kind of “tug of war”.
There are several things that you can do to help your child win the battle against tooth decay.
The theme for National Children’s Dental Health Month is, “Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste and clean between your teeth for a healthy smile”.
This slogan focuses on flossing. Your gums, gingiva, might bleed a little when you start the habit of flossing but in the absence of any systemic issues the bleeding will stop with continued flossing, as the gums get healthier.
Flossing is important. Tooth brushing cleans about 60 percent of the teeth and flossing cleans the additional 40 percent. Regular flossing should begin as soon as the teeth are touching other teeth. Flossing goes a long way to reduce gingivitis, the most common disease in human beings.
Flossing is important but it is just as important to floss correctly. Here are a few tips on flossing.

Flossers are easier to use than tradition string floss. Press the floss (between the plastic holder) between each tooth, scraping against the both sides of each tooth then repeat until the front and back of each tooth has been flossed.  Rinse and spit! If you are having a hard time making flossing a habit, then floss before you brush your teeth. You can limit the number of in between meal sugary snacks to two a day. Also brushing or rinsing their mouths after snacks can limit the duration of acid attacks to their teeth.
Formula, milk and juices all contain some form of sugar. Babies and toddlers are at an increased risk of tooth decay also, known as “bottle caries.” Infants and toddlers require frequent feedings, exposing their teeth to a constant bath of sugary substances. Parents are encouraged to never put their infants to bed or allow them to fall asleep with bottles or sippy cups with liquids that contain sugars.
Parents should clean their infant’s teeth with a clean wet washcloth after each feeding whether it’s formula, milk, breast milk or juices. Wiping the teeth after feeding removes the sticky bacteria containing film that can cause decay.
Regular visits to the dentist are also essential in preventing cavities. It is recommended that children should have their first dental appointment by 12 months of age. Tricare dental insurance pays for two exams and teeth cleans each year.
Tooth brushing is a cost effective, easy, way of preventing cavities. Parents should start to “brush” their children’s teeth as soon as the first tooth erupts into the mouth. Parents should also help or supervise their children’s tooth brushing until age 7 or 8. Adolescents and teens require an occasional spot check.
Use only soft bristled toothbrushes and discard them after three months of use or sooner if the bristles are fraying. Frayed bristles can be harmful to the gums and are not as effective in cleaning.
Listed are some tips on tooth brushing that will establish essential oral habits that can last a lifetime.

For ages less than 3 years old smear a small amount of tooth paste onto the tooth brush For ages greater than 3 years old squeeze a small amount (pea –sized) of toothpaste onto the tooth brush. Brush the teeth gently with small circular movements Remember to brush your tongue every time you brush your teeth Brush for at least two minutes Dental sealants are another way to help protect children from getting cavities. Sealants are thin plastic coatings that cover the grooves of the back teeth. Molars and premolars have grooves and pits where bacteria can hide and the bristles of a toothbrush can’t fit into to clean. Ask your dentist about dental sealants at your child’s next appointment to see if sealants would benefit your child.
You can find out more about children’s dental health by visiting Mouth Healthy Kids at http://www.mouthhealthykids.org. For more information about healthy eating, check out the Army Public Health Center website at: https://usaphcapps.amedd.army.mil/HIOShoppingCart/searchResults.aspx?hotlist=65 or go to: www.MyPlate.gov.