February is Dental Health Month, a good time to review your dental health routine with your child. We often tell parents there are two areas of focus for maintaining healthy teeth, proper diet and proper hygiene.

It starts with a healthy diet - A well balanced diet incorporating plenty of dairy, fruits and vegetables are essential for healthy teeth and gums. Please be cautious of raisins and chewy/gummy fruit snacks. Although made with fruit or fruit juices, these snacks stick to your child's teeth. These sugars will sit on their teeth and create an opportunity for decay if not brushed away quickly. Cheese is an excellent choice for a healthy snack. In recent studies cheese has been proven to be the best snack for healthy teeth. Stick to water and milk, the best choice for growing children. Juice should be limited as it is another major source of sugar.

Keep up a consistent routine - Keep your child’s mouth healthy. It is important to watch over their brushing skills until at least 8 years old. They need to make sure they are covering all surfaces and brushing for enough time and to brush at least twice a day. A good rule of thumb is to ask your child to hum the “Happy Birthday” song two times to be sure they are brushing long enough. Make sure tooth brushes are replaced frequently (roughly every 3-4 months). Flossing, yes it is important at a young age! As long as two teeth are touching, flossing should start. Similar to adults, children should visit the dentist every six months for a check-up, cleaning, and fluoride. The need for x-rays varies for each child based on which teeth are present and the child’s risk profile for getting cavities.

When should my child have their first dental visit?
We are often asked when a child should come in for their first dental check-up. The guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) are that the first dental visit should be no later than the child's 1st birthday. Typically the first tooth appears between ages six to twelve months. It is important to establish a regular dental exam routine early. This will help promote a lifetime of healthy teeth for your child. An early visit can detect issues prior to becoming major problems.