Submitted by the Erie County Department of Health
February is Children’s Dental Health Month, and the Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH) is shining a spotlight on improving children’s dental health and preventing cavities.
“Dental caries, or cavities, are a prevalent and completely preventable childhood condition, and can lead to mouth pain, premature tooth loss, difficulty chewing, infections and surgeries,” Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein said. “Any mouth discomfort can make it hard for kids to smile. We want to remind parents and caregivers of effective and available tools to promote strong teeth in children.”
√ Wipe gums twice a day with a soft, clean cloth in the morning after the first feeding and right before bed to wipe away bacteria and sugars that can cause cavities.
√ When teeth come in, start brushing twice a day with a soft, small‑bristled toothbrush and plain water.
√ Visit the dentist by your baby’s first birthday to spot signs of problems early.
√ Talk to your dentist or doctor about putting fluoride varnish on your child’s teeth as soon as the first tooth appears.
√ For children younger than 2, consult first with your doctor or dentist regarding the use of fluoride toothpaste.
√ Brush their teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
√ Help your child brush their teeth until they have good brushing skills.
If your child is younger than 6, watch them brush. Make sure they use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and always spit it out rather than swallow.
√ Ask your child’s dentist to apply dental sealants when appropriate.
√ Drink tap water that contains fluoride.
Regular, gentle tooth-brushing with a fluoride toothpaste, flossing, limiting sugary beverages and snacks, and use of a mouth rinse with fluoride are generally recommended for people of all ages.
Another dental health consideration is fluoridated water, which is widely recognized as one of the public health successes of the 20th century. Fluoride in water or from toothpastes, rinses, supplements or treatments can prevent or slow tooth decay and strengthen tooth enamel for generations of children and adults.
The water systems in the City of Buffalo and in some rural communities – areas of Chaffee, North Collins, Collins, Holland, Alden and Akron – do not add fluoride to drinking water. Also, houses that rely on well water do not have fluoride added to drinking water. Parents and caregivers should find out whether a child’s primary drinking water sources contain added fluoride. Houses served by the Erie County Water Authority do receive fluoridated water, as do those from many other municipalities.
At well-child visits, parents and caregivers should discuss their child’s dental health with their child’s pediatrician or dentist, and ask whether fluoride varnishes or prescription fluoride supplements are recommended. Fluoride varnish can be applied up to four times a year for children ages 1-6 years, and is generally covered by health insurance including Medicaid.
“Children’s wellbeing is a focus for our department and for Live Well Erie activities, and dental health is one piece of a larger wellness puzzle,” Burstein said. “Consistent toothbrushing after meals, regular dental checkups and addressing problems and pain early are the foundations for stronger teeth and healthier smiles for everyone.”
√ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children’s oral health: https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/basics/childrens-oral-health/index.html
√ American Academy of Pediatrics, oral health: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/oral-health/Pages/default.aspx
√ Erie County Department of Health, dental health: https://www3.erie.gov/health/dental-health