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Whether it is Raffi’s catchy song back in the day or a rhyme like: “Up like a rocket. Down like the rain. Back and forth like a choo-choo train.” One of the most important things to help children keep their teeth clean, fresh and healthy is simply something to make them know tooth brushing can be fun, said Dr. Barry Bartusiak of Bartusiak Dental Care, family practice, in Washington.
“The child then wants to do it and it becomes an enjoyable habit,” said Bartusiak, a Trinity High School and University of Pittsburgh graduate, “without them knowing it.”
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month – an appropriate time to stress the importance of establishing good oral health habits at an early age to prevent tooth decay and maintain a nice smile.
While preventable, tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease, according to the U.S. Surgeon General. Tooth decay can develop any time after a child’s first tooth comes in, starting around six months of age, studies show.
Establishing good dental habits in early childhood is essential for preventing or lessening the impact of tooth decay while ensuring a lifetime of good oral health. Each February, parents are encouraged to help their kids develop healthy routines including visiting the dentist regularly, brushing their teeth twice a day and flossing once a day.
“The most important aspects of a child’s dental health are good oral hygiene and diet,” said Dr. Brian Rudolph DMD, who has a general dentistry practice with offices in Peters and Rostraver townships. “Children should learn to properly brush their teeth at least twice daily with fluoride toothpaste. They should floss their teeth as soon as teeth begin to make contacts and they should limit sugar in their diets. Consuming food or drink with “high” sugar or carbohydrates increases tooth plaque and the production of acid which can result in tooth decay and gum disease.”
Bartusiak said parents setting a good example early on is key in helping children start on a good path related to brushing and good tooth maintenance.
“Our children are watching us,” he said. The old saying holds true, ‘apples don’t fall far from trees.’ If (parents) demonstrate good habits the (children) will follow.
“The dentist and the entire team are huge factors in children being comfortable and having a great experience. Letting the child and parent know that we care and that we are here to help them is paramount to successful visits. The attitude and atmosphere that the dentist provides is huge in making the child’s visit a positive experience. Attitude is everything.”
Having young children accompany an older sibling or parent on their dental checkup appointment is often a good introduction to the dental office, studies show.
Several reports indicate good oral health is important to a child’s overall health, well-being and development. Healthy baby-teeth are the foundation for proper alignment of adult teeth. Untreated tooth decay and other oral health issues can not only cause discomfort and pain, but also lead to school absences and difficulty learning. Oral health problems also can affect a child’s ability to speak and eat, impacting social confidence and overall nutrition.
“We try to show and explain what we do to create a less threatening experience for a child,” Rudolph said. “We try to engage the child in conversation on their interests and describe things on a level they can more easily understand.
“I feel that establishing good oral hygiene habits early in life, eating a diet that limits sugar and frequent snacking, along with early exposure to the dental office in a familiar and nonthreatening manner will best position a child to have good oral health throughout their life.”
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