Protecting kids' teeth

Tooth decay has declined in other groups, which dentists say makes the increase in these young children even more troubling. According to the American Dental Association, only three out of five children have seen a dentist before kindergarten and by then, more than 50 percent of kids (between ages six and eight years) have tooth decay.

SURPRISING STATS: One reason children may not be getting the dental care they need is a lack of private dental insurance. The ADA says for every child without health insurance in the United States, there are 2.6 children without dental insurance. Children from families with annual incomes of $10,000 to $20,000 have ten-times more unmet dental needs than kids who come from families with an annual income of more than $50,000. Unfortunately, nearly half of tooth decay in kids ages two to nine years goes untreated. The statistics paint a grim picture, but dentists say there's a lot parents can do to keep their kids' teeth healthy.


?After each feeding, clean the baby's gums with a clean wet gauze pad or washcloth.

?When teeth start to appear, brush them with a child's size toothbrush and plain water. Look for

toothbrushes that carry the ADA Seal of Acceptance.

?Begin flossing when at least two teeth begin to touch.

?Start dental visits by the child's first birthday.

?Brush teeth of children over age two with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Look for

toothpastes that carry the ADA Seal of Acceptance.

?Don't "clean" pacifiers or bottle tops with your mouth. Rinse them with water before giving them

back to your child.

?Don't let your child engage in "grazing behavior." Suckling on a bottle filled with juice or milk for

long periods exposes teeth to decay-promoting bacteria.


?Until they are six or seven years old, continue to brush your children's teeth twice a day with a pea-

sized amount of toothpaste.

?By age six or seven, children should be able to brush their own teeth twice a day, but often require

supervision until about age 10 or 11.

?Visit the dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral exams.

?Ask the dentist about dental sealants -- a protective plastic coating that can be applied to the

chewing surfaces of the back teeth where decay often starts.

SOURCE: Compiled from the American Dental Association and an interview with dentist Robert Berkowitz, DDS, from the University of Rochester

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