Kids’ Oral Health: Parents Can Make a Difference

Posted & filed under Children's Oral Health and Fluoride.

Guest blog contributed by the Children’s Dental Health Project

To ensure children’s overall health, we’ll have to start with the place where the most common chronic childhood disease lives: the mouth. Excellent, free-to-order handouts for parents can help them protect their children’s oral health. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have created two “Think Teeth” handouts for parents — one that focuses on oral health tips for young children and another with tips for kids of all ages.

Father and ChildrenTooth decay is the most chronic disease of early childhood — 5 times more common than asthma. Nearly one-quarter of preschool-age children have experienced tooth decay, and 50% of kids have had at least one cavity by the time they reach adolescence. Given these facts, the CMS handouts should come in handy for dental clinics, community health centers, and children’s advocates.

Dental health in children is vital, especially when research points to long-term, pervasive ways tooth decay can impact a child’s life. Children with poor oral health were nearly 3 times more likely to miss school, according to a North Carolina study. Children who reported recent toothaches were 4 times more likely to earn a lower grade-point average than peers reporting no dental pain. Overall, tooth decay can negatively impact a child’s physical and social development.

Luckily, the most common chronic childhood disease is also the most preventable. We have identified many cost-effective ways to reduce tooth decay. The cost of applying a decay-preventing dental sealant to a child’s permanent teeth is much less than the cost of filling a cavity. In addition, for most cities, every $1 spent on water fluoridation saves $38 in dental costs.

Parents have a key role to play. If your organization works with families, share these materials to emphasize why it’s important for parents to “think teeth.”