Oral Hygiene Facts for National Children’s Dental Health Month

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Each year in February, pediatric dentists and their assistants give visits to schools and other community events to promote the benefits of proper dental hygiene during National Children’s Dental Health Month. Sponsored by the American Dental Association, these dedicated professionals provide over $30,000 in free annual dental care to approximately 10,000 at-risk children. To celebrate National Children’s Dental Health Month and the devoted dental-healthcare professionals that make it happen every year, here are some oral-hygiene facts that all parents and teachers should be aware of:

• Dental caries, commonly referred to as cavities, are over seven times more common in children than hay fever, five times more frequent than asthma and have a greater incidence than type II diabetes.

• Cavities result when the soft, sticky microbial biofilm called plaque, caused by food and bacteria, accumulates on the surface of the tooth. Plaque then converts the carbohydrates and/or sugars in the food into acid that dissolves tooth enamel, making the tooth susceptible to decay.

• As reported by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, over half of all children in the U.S. will have experienced tooth decay by the time they are five year old. A study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that roughly 40 percent of children between the ages of two and 11 years old have untreated cavities. Children should see a pediatric dentist by their first birthday or when the first tooth appears.

• Up to $50 in restorative dental care is saved for every dollar spent on preventative care, as reported by The American Dental Hygienists Association.

• The enamel on teeth is stronger than bone and is the hardest substance in the human body.

• The average person only brushes for about half of the recommended time each day. You should have your children use the “2-2-2 Rule” to help keep their teeth cavity free. This includes brushing and flossing twice a day for two minutes and seeing their pediatric dentist twice a year.

• Dentists say the “Tell, Show, Do” model can help get your children in the right oral-hygiene habit early on. You should:

1. “Tell,” or explain, to your children how to properly brush and floss and why it is important to keep their teeth healthy.

2. “Show” your children how to properly brush and floss their teeth by giving them a demonstration.

3. “Do” by helping your children brush and floss their teeth to help them establish and maintain a regular routine.

You should continue to help you children brush and floss their teeth until they are approximately five years old and supervise them until age eight.

• Oral Hygiene can often be indicative of overall physical health, as problems in the mouth can affect other areas of your body, and vice versa. Poor oral health can affect your child’s overall health, self-esteem, and academic performance. According to both the Unites States Surgeon General and The Center for Health and Health Care in Schools, over 50 million school hours are lost due to dental-related conditions every year.

• A study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association reports that there are billions of bacteria in your mouth and the best defense against these organisms is good oral hygiene. While healthy bacteria work to protect your mouth, with some even helping to slow down tooth decay, if the harmful bacteria are not removed with regular brushing and flossing, it can result in a wide range of oral and other heath problems. These problems can include cavities, gingivitis, bleeding gums, tooth loss and even pneumonia.

• There are over 10 teaspoons of sugar in the average soda. Therefore it isn’t all that surprising that people who drink at least three glasses of soda pop a day have over 60 percent more cavities, fillings and subsequent tooth loss.

• Roughly 85 percent of people who have continual bad breath have an underlying dental condition causing bacterial buildup in the mouth. Mouthwash just masks the odors that are typically caused by bacteria accumulating in the mouth, especially on the tongue. Brush and floss twice a day and use a tongue scraper daily to get rid of the odor-causing micro organisms. If this doesn’t help, consult your dentist.

• More than 75 percent of the dental caries that children get are located on the tops of their teeth. Dental sealants help to protect the chewing surface against cavities, yet over 80 percent of children do not have even one sealed permanent tooth. Ask your dentist if sealant is a good option for your child.

• According to the World Health Organization, oral diseases can continue to affect people throughout their lifetime, resulting in pain and even death, and are the most common type of noncommunicable illness.

• While the jury is out on the efficacy of fluoride in drinking water, fluoride toothpastes and dental treatments are one of the best ways to keep the cavities away. Ask your dentist how you can make sure your children are getting enough fluoride to protect their teeth.

• The World Health Organization reports that seven oral diseases account for most dental issues. The most common ones include cavities, gum disease and cancers of the mouth.

• Toothbrushes are good for about 180 uses. This means they wear out about every 90 days when used twice a day. Because bacteria loves toothbrush bristles, people with gum disease should change toothbrushes more frequently, at least every four to six weeks. Toothbrushes should always be changed after a cold or flu and you should rinse your toothbrush with very hot water after each use.

• Over 14 million gallons of toothpaste are sold in the U.S. each year.

• Because of its high sugar content, an apple a day won’t keep the dentist away.

• A dental assistant named Irene Newman became the first dental hygienist in 1905.

We hope you enjoyed reading these oral hygiene facts and have obtained a better understanding of how important oral hygiene is. While many people mistakenly believe that good dental health is too much trouble or just not important, brushing and flossing every day, eating a healthy diet and getting regular dental checkups will greatly reduce the risk of tooth decay and loss for both your children and yourself.

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