National Children’s Dental Health Month begins

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- February is National Children's Dental Health Month. The American Dental Association promotes this year's program with the slogan, "A Healthy Smile? It's easy to find."

Help children maintain healthy teeth and gums by encouraging them to limit sugary snacks, brush teeth at least twice per day and floss at least once per day. It is also encouraged parents schedule children for regular dental check-ups. Remember, a child's first visit to the dentist should be at 1 year old.

"Our teeth are meant to last a lifetime, and a healthy smile is important to a child's self esteem. With proper care, a balanced diet and regular dental care, their teeth can remain healthy and strong," said Tech. Sgt. Jane Camacho, a 52nd DS dental hygienist.

During the month of February, members of the 52nd DS will be visiting children in kindergarten through the fourth grade at Spangdahlem and Bitburg Elementary Schools.

Common questions:

How many times each day should teeth be brushed and when?
The two really important times to brush your teeth are in the morning after breakfast and at night before you go to bed. Any extra times you brush during the day is great, particularly after eating sticky and sugary foods.

When should my child be off the bottle and sippy cup?
Infants should be weaned from the bottle and/or sippy cup at 12-14 months old. One guideline is avoid giving milk or any type of sugar drink in the bottle/sippy cup when putting the child to sleep at night or for a nap. Kids should be encouraged to drink from a cup by their first birthday.

At what age do children start to lose baby teeth, and how long does it take until all adult teeth are in place?
Children can start losing their baby teeth anywhere from about 5-7 years old. Usually the two front teeth on the bottom are the first teeth to be replaced. The time they lose all their baby teeth varies but ranges from 12-13 years old. Around 12-14 years old, most children should have their adult teeth.

Should children use the same toothpaste as adults?
All that teeth need from toothpaste is the fluoride that helps strengthen them and protect them from cavities. Remember that only a pea-sized drop of paste on the brush is necessary for kids 2 years old and on. For kids younger than 2 years old, use a small smear of toothpaste.

How much juice can my child have?
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that kids have at most 4-6 ounces of juice a day, which is about the size of a juice box. In addition, kids should have three good meals and two snacks per day to include breads, milk products, meats, fruits, and vegetables. When children have more than two snacks per day, it places them at an increased risk for dental decay.

Should children use a different toothbrush than adults?
Children should use smaller brushes with shorter brushing planes in proportion to the size of their mouths. Children who use brushes that are too big cannot easily maneuver it into small spaces in their mouth. In addition to changing brushes every three months or when the bristles appear worn, it's a good idea to dispose of those brushes after colds or sore throats.

Col. (Dr.) Lolo Wong is the pediatric dentist for the 52nd Dental Squadron. He provides answers to some of the most commonly asked questions by parents such as recommended brushing times, bottle and sippy cup usage, types and amount of toothpaste for kids, and dietary recommendations to include juice limitations for children.