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Monthly Health Topics

Dental Checkups Don't Have to Be Scary

By George Hulse, Vice President of External Affairs, Healthfirst
For Halloween, many of us will be taking our kids trick-or-treating. With all the candy and sweets during this holiday, it’s a good time to also consider your child’s dental health. Unlike your kids’ Halloween costumes, dental checkups don’t have to be scary!
Once your child’s first tooth appears, or no later than the child’s first birthday, it’s a good time for their inaugural visit to a dentist according to The American Dental Association. A check-up every six months is recommended in order to prevent cavities and other dental problems.
Here are a few more important tips for caring for your child’s teeth:
• Don’t let your baby go to sleep with a bottle. This can leave milk or juice sitting on the teeth, which causes cavities
• If your child uses a pacifier, make sure it’s clean. Don’t dip it in sugar or honey
• As soon as the first tooth appears, clean them every day by rubbing gently with a clean, wet washcloth. When the teeth are bigger, use a soft bristle children’s toothbrush
• Do not use fluoride toothpaste on children younger than 2 years of age. Instead, use water to brush your child’s teeth or fluoride free “training toothpaste”
• Teach your children how to brush their teeth and continue to supervise them. First, you brush their teeth in front of a mirror and then give them the brush to copy the way you did it
• Children older than 2 years of age only need a small amount of toothpaste—about the size of a pea—on their toothbrushes. Teach them to rinse well after brushing
• Encourage your child to eat low-sugar snacks. Fruits, cheese, and vegetables are good choices. Don’t give your children sticky, chewy candy
Your dentist is your best partner in protecting your child’s teeth. It’s important to check with the dentist to make sure your child is getting enough fluoride either via water that contains fluoride or through toothpaste.
It may also be helpful to find out more about pain-free dental procedures, such as dental sealants and fluoride varnish that help protect your child’s teeth from decay and cavities. A dental sealant is a special coating applied to the back teeth to protect against tooth decay by keeping germs and food particles out of the grooves. Fluoride varnish is a highly concentrated fluoride coating that is applied to the teeth.
I want to wish you all a happy and safe Halloween, and I hope you’ll include the dentist’s office on this year’s trick-or-treating route.
George Hulse is Vice President of External Affairs at Healthfirst. For more tips on leading a healthier lifestyle, visit www.healthfirst.org

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