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National Children's Dental Health Month Puts Focus on Early Oral Care

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CHICAGO, Feburary  2009—National Children’s Dental Health Month turned 60 this year.  Each February, since 1949, the American Dental Association (ADA) has sponsored National Children’s Dental Health Month to raise awareness about the importance of oral health.

Dental care no later than age one

The ADA’s annual sponsorship also serves as a reminder to parents and others that dental care at an early age can put a child on a fast track to a lifetime of good oral health habits.  According to a recent national survey by the ADA and Crest® and Oral B®, parents are unclear at what age to take their child to see a dentist for the first time.  The ADA recommends a visit to the dentist within six months of the eruption of the first tooth, and no later than the child's first birthday.  Preventive care such as cleanings and fluoride treatment can provide children with "smile" insurance. Routine dental exams uncover problems that can be treated in the early stages, when damage is minimal.
The ADA offers the following advice for parents and caregivers to help children maintain healthy teeth and gums:

  • Early Childhood Caries (Baby-Bottle Tooth Decay)
    Baby-bottle tooth decay can destroy your child's teeth. It occurs when a child is frequently exposed to sugary liquids such as milk, including breast milk, fruit juice and other sweet liquids. The ADA recommends the following steps to help prevent baby bottle tooth decay.

    - Begin cleaning your baby's mouth during the first few days after birth. After every feeding, wipe the baby's gums with a damp washcloth or gauze pad to remove plaque.

    - Never allow your child to nurse or breast-feed for prolonged periods and do not give him or her bottle with milk, formula, sugar water or fruit juice during naps or at night in bed.

    - Encourage children to drink from a cup by their first birthday and discourage frequent use of a training cup.

    - Help your child develop good eating habits early and choose sensible, nutritious snacks. 
  •  Reduce your children’s risk of tooth decay:

    - Sugary foods and drinks should be consumed with meals. Saliva production
    increases during meals and helps neutralize acid production and rinse food
    particles from the mouth.

    - Limit between-meal snacks. If kids crave a snack, offer them nutritious foods.

    - If your kids chew gum, make it sugarless – Chewing sugarless gum after eating
    can increase saliva flow and help wash out food and decay-producing acid.

    - Monitor beverage consumption – Instead of soft drinks all day, children should
    also choose water and low-fat milk.

    - Help your children develop good brushing and flossing habits.

    - Schedule regular dental visits.

About the American Dental Association

The not-for-profit ADA is the nation's largest dental association, representing 157,000 dentist members. The premier source of oral health information, the ADA has advocated for the public's health and promoted the art and science of dentistry since 1859. The ADA's state-of-the-art research facilities develop and test dental products and materials that have advanced the practice of dentistry and made the patient experience more positive. The ADA Seal of Acceptance long has been a valuable and respected guide to consumer dental care products. The monthly The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) is the ADA's flagship publication and the best-read scientific journal in dentistry. For more information about the ADA, visit For more information on oral health, including prevention, care and treatment of dental disease, visit the ADA’s consumer website