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February is National Children's Dental Health Month: Here’s What Staten Island Parents Need to Know

Join Healthy Smiles as we celebrate National Children’s Dental Health Month every year during the month of February. Here’s what makes this month so important!

The month of February is a time for dentists, parents, and educators in the Staten Island community (and the US, as a whole) to come together and reflect on the importance of dental health in early childhood.

It’s a moment to sit back and ask ourselves, “How can we do better?” and “How can we be better?”

That’s why we celebrate National Children's Dental Health Month (NCDHM).

It all started as a single-day event in Cleveland, Ohio, on Feb. 3, 1941. The American Dental Association (ADA) joined in on the fun in 1949 and expanded it to a week-long event in 1955 – later expanding it to a month in 1981. Ever since then, February has been crowned National Children's Dental Health Month

That brings us to 2024 – a new year, a new theme. 

This year’s theme, chosen by the ADA, was ‘Healthy Habits for Healthy Smiles’ – a theme that hits home for us here at Healthy Smiles as we continue our commitment to the youth community in Staten Island. 

By educating children and parents on the importance of regular dental care, proper brushing and flossing techniques, and the role of a nutritious diet in oral health, we can prevent the onset of disease and build a foundation of good habits that will ensure your child’s smile remains bright and healthy for years to come.

Little Teeth, Big Challenges: Common Dental Problems Children Face Often

As parents, it’s important that we educate ourselves on some of the challenges our children face on their dental health journey. When we know what to avoid, we can put them in a better position to succeed. 

With that said, let’s take a look at some of the most common dental problems children face often: 

  • Cavities - also known as dental caries, cavities are damaged areas of the tooth that develop into tiny holes (tooth decay).
  • Gum Disease - also known as gingivitis, gum disease is often associated with poor oral hygiene and plaque buildup. 
  • Teeth Grinding - also known as bruxism, this affects more than 30% of kids before the age of 5, but most grow out of it.
  • Sensitive Teeth - also known as dentine hypersensitivity, this is usually a sign of dental erosion or tooth decay. 
  • Bad Breath - poor oral hygiene, poor diet, and dehydration are common causes of bad breath in children. 
  • Dental Anxiety - many children have a fear of the dentist, but helping them overcome this fear can normalize these visits. 

So, what can parents do to prevent these dental problems? 

Three things – oral hygiene, healthy diet, and regular dental appointments

By teaching your child the importance of those three things, you can help them prevent dental issues and instill positive habits at an early age that benefit them throughout childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. 

Brush, Floss, Rinse, Repeat: Proper Dental Hygiene for Kids

Proper dental hygiene begins the day your child is born. In their earliest days, parents should regularly clean their baby’s gums by gently rubbing a damp washcloth over the gums after each feeding. 

Once that first tooth comes in, start teaching them the ways of brushing, flossing, rinsing, and repeating.

Here are some of our most useful dental hygiene tips for young children:

  • Start brushing as soon as the first tooth comes in
  • Don’t use a lot of toothpaste – a small dab will do
  • Start flossing as soon as their teeth start to touch
  • Brush twice per day, and floss daily (once able)
  • Don’t start using mouthwash until six years old
  • Always use fluoridated toothpaste when brushing

Prioritizing proper dental hygiene in children is an investment in their future, and promotes not only their oral health, but also their overall physical health, social confidence, and psychological well-being. 

The Dental Diet: How Eating Right Can Save Your Child’s Smile

The gums, teeth, tongue, and other structures of the mouth are no different than the rest of your body – they need nutrients just like everything else. Without nutrition, these structures will eventually fail us.

So, where do these nutrients come from? 

Their diet, of course!

Here are some of the most important nutrients for dental health: 

  • Calcium (milk, cheese, and yogurt)
  • Phosphorus (meat, fish, and eggs)
  • Vitamin D (fortified in milk, cereal)
  • Vitamin A (sweet potatoes, carrots, and dark leafy greens)
  • Vitamin C (citrus fruits, tomatoes)
  • Plenty of fruits and vegetables 
  • Protein (lean meats like turkey, chicken)

With that said, dental health is more than just adding certain nutrients to your diet – we also have to avoid certain foods and beverages that only mean harm. Sticky candies, sweets, starchy foods, refined sugar, carbonated soft drinks, dried fruits, and flavored drinks should be avoided as much as possible.

The Dental Detective: Why Every Kid Needs Regular Dentist Appointments

We get it – not every child enjoys going to the dentist. But not going to the dentist only makes the problem worse – the earlier they’re exposed to the environment, the more comfortable they’ll feel as they get older. 

Of course, it also gives your dentist an opportunity to detect dental problems in their earliest stages – ensuring treatment begins in a timely manner. Here are some of the other benefits of regular dental visits

  • The dentist gets to build a strong relationship with the child
  • The child becomes more comfortable with the dental environment
  • Establish a solid foundation built off healthy habits and education
  • Taking care of cavities before they turn into a bigger problem
  • Help parents address excessive thumb-sucking at an early age

Don’t worry – at Healthy Smiles, we take extra steps to prevent dental anxiety and ensure your child has a memorable experience with us. We want this to be as positive and uplifting for your child as possible.

Happy Teeth, Happy Kids, Healthy Smiles – Contact Us Today!

Celebrating National Children’s Dental Health Month is important to us here at Healthy Smiles, but we also want to stress the importance of year-round dental health – let’s not forget that it’s a daily grind!

While that starts at home, we’re here when you need us!

Is your child complaining about a toothache? Are they having a hard time eating? Do they often talk about how much they dislike their smile? Or how they like someone else’s smile more than their own? 

Better yet, has it been more than six months since their last trip to the dentist? 

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of those questions, then it might be time to schedule an appointment with Dr. Joseph Cipriano and his team at Healthy Smiles. Don’t worry – your child’s oral health is in good hands!