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Not your mom’s dental care: 5 tips we’ve learned on how to keep your kids’ smiles healthy.


Guide your kids on the pathway to a lifetime of oral health.

As a parent, you know the basics of good dental care… brush regularly, floss, limit sugary foods.

So why are kids so often struggling to with oral health? It’s a question that vexes many parents. Indeed, about 20% of children aged 5 to 11 years and 13% of adolescents have at least one untreated decayed tooth, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And the rate nearly doubles for children from low-income families.

Certainly, the pandemic didn’t help. According to another CDC report, the number of children ages 2 to 17 who had a regular dental checkup in the past 12 months decreased due to concerns about COVID-19.

The good news: Most dental care issues can be prevented, or corrected, by following the latest suggestions and guidelines from the American Dental Association (ADA) or your pediatric dentist. Here are five things to know about dental care today that can improve your child’s oral health:

  • Start early. Babies, even before teeth begin to emerge, are vulnerable to dental decay. In the morning, after their first feeding, and right before bed, use a clean, soft cloth to gently wipe their gums to rid the little droolers of any excess sugars or bacteria. Another common mistake is letting babies go to sleep with a bottle in their mouths. Residue from milk or juice can linger on teeth for a long time and begin to deteriorate protective tooth enamel. And you should schedule their first dental exam by baby’s first birthday. The dentist will be able to spot and address problem areas, and apply a topical fluoride treatment to strengthen baby teeth and ward off cavities and disease. Thereafter, schedule – and keep – appointments every six months. Kids are active and a lot can change in a short period of time. Get ahold of any problems before they get bigger.
  • Be mindful of moderation. Kids love to scarf down snacks, soft drinks and just about anything else that’s not good for them. If you let them have their favorite treats, make sure not to overdo it. And if any sugary items are off limits in your house, make sure grandma and babysitters are aware of the do’s and don’ts of their dietary habits. Share a holistic health message with kids and caregivers; it doesn’t have to be limited to dental care.
  • Educate yourself. Did you know starches can be just as damaging as sweets? Pretzels, crackers and gummy snacks that are sticky can stay attached to teeth and gums for longer than you might expect. And that residue can be breeding grounds for bacteria. That doesn’t mean your child can’t have them; just avoid them if you know brushing won’t be possible soon after. Even cough medicines and other oral medications can be a problem if you’re not careful as they often include sugary flavoring. So don’t forget to have Junior brush or use mouthwash soon afterwards.
  • Monkey see, monkey do. Be a strong oral health role model for your children by showing them that dental care is an important part of your daily routine, too. Plus, take the time to show them proper technique. Show them how to apply toothpaste, hold the toothbrush, and brush their teeth for two minutes, twice daily. Don’t forget the finer points of flossing, too. Just as with other things in life, practice makes perfect.
  • Seek out sealants … and more. According to the ADA, dental sealants applied to permanent molars can reduce the risk of cavities or tooth decay by 80%. It’s important to protect molars because they are the teeth that do the most chewing. Talk to your pediatric dentist about whether or not sealants are right for your child and at what age they can be applied. Also, the industry has made great strides with respect to fillings and braces. Most metal fillings have been replaced with resin-based materials, which do a better job of adhering to teeth and can usually be colored to match surrounding teeth. And most braces are now made of plastic, which is less intrusive and more visually appealing, too.

Oral health is as important as any other aspect of your child’s health. Horizon has taken a fully integrated approach to helping members and their families achieve their best oral health. If you have questions or are seeking more information about oral health for your kids, call your pediatric dentist or visit Horizon Dental.

Horizon Health News is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.