Every February, the American Dental Association (ADA) sponsors National Children’s Dental Health Month in order to increase awareness of the importance of maintaining good oral health among children and their parents.

Believe it or not, cavities and tooth decay are among the most common health issues affecting children in the Unites States. Despite the fact that tooth decay is preventable, it remains the most common chronic disease of children and teens from age 6 to 19. In some places, it has an even greater impact on children and their families than asthma. It’s still estimated that children in the U.S. miss over 51 million hours of school every year due to dental issues. These absences will result in the loss of critical learning time, particularly in the earlier grades where their fundamental skills are still being developed. Students who experience oral pain are 4 times more likely to suffer from lower GPAs than their peers. An even more alarming fact is that around 17 million children forgo any dental care each year. For younger children who still have their primary teeth, these statistics are even more crucial, as approximately 44 percent of U.S. children will suffer from pediatric dental disease before they reach kindergarten. Contrary to what you may think, those baby teeth matter, even if they do eventually fall out to make room for their permanent teeth. Experts say that if kids lose their teeth prematurely, their permanent teeth can come in crooked or otherwise compromised. Kids who have cavities in their baby teeth will almost certainly have decay in their permanent teeth.

Teaching young ones the importance of dental health may be difficult, as the young children might have a hard time grasping the importance of dental health. The first step of healthy teeth and gums is making healthier choices among the foods you eat! Choosing water and milk instead of sugary drinks is a great first step. Healthy snacks, preferably crunchy ones that naturally clean the teeth, such as apples, celery, and almonds with help improve oral health. A great way to get children excited about their own oral health is to allow them to assist you the next time you shop for dental supplies. Allow them to pick out items like a toothbrush with their favorite character and a new toothpaste with a flavor that they’ll enjoy. Be sure to always pick soft bristled toothbrushes for young children. These kinds of freedoms will help develop a daily dental healthy routine which has children brushing twice a day for two minutes and flossing.

During National Children’s Dental Health Month, healthcare providers, dental professionals, and teachers are able to provide information to ensure that children will be on the right track to have healthy teeth as they grow. The ADA provides free tools and resources online, including oral health presentations, concepts for viable classroom projects, coloring and activity sheets that may be utilized as handouts. The ADA also provides booklets, pamphlets, tutorial videos and other tools that you can buy through the organization’s catalog.