According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, cavities are four (4) times more common than childhood asthma and three (3) times more likely than childhood obesity. It is the most common condition among children that is largely preventable.

The 28th Annual Report on the Conditions of Children in Orange County indicated approximately two in three children, 3 to 11 years old (67.8%), visited the dentist within the last 6 months in 2020. This represents a decrease from (77.3%) in 2019. Click here to review or download the full report.

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month

This month-long observance promotes the importance of good oral care habits, which includes regular dental visits, to children, parents, caregivers, and to community partners. Poor oral care can impact children’s health and their quality of life. Helping children build good oral care habits early in life can have a huge effect in preventing childhood cavities.

Take action to prevent early childhood cavities

Preventive oral care is key to helping children maintain strong teeth and healthy gums. It begins as soon as the first tooth appears. Preventing cavities involves a combination of three (3) primary members: the parent/caregiver, child, and the child’s dental home. Each one has a supportive role in helping a child develop and maintain their oral hygiene routine.

The role of a dental home

Early preventive dental visits are essential in improving children’s oral health. The dental office staff helps families with their dental appointments, explains their dental coverage, and shares other important information. The dentist provides the child with regular exams and cleanings. Caregivers receive ongoing oral care guidance on proper tooth brushing, and flossing techniques. Preventive treatments such as fluoride varnishes or sealants and referrals may be recommended as the child grows.

A parent or caregiver’s role

Supporting your child with their oral care habits early can lead to better oral and overall health throughout their life. Parents and caregivers have the most important role in establishing good dental care habits. The American Dental Association recommends the following guidance to help your child with their daily oral hygiene routine:

Help your child brush their teeth. Teach your child to brush their teeth gently, twice (2) a day for two (2) minutes. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush with a small head and a fluoride toothpaste.

Clean between their teeth daily. Flossing should start when your child has two (2) teeth that touch. Follow the dental provider’s flossing method. Let your child know flossing is needed to clean areas their toothbrush can’t reach.

Please note smaller children under seven (7) yrs. old need a caregiver’s assistance to properly develop the skills to brush their teeth and floss. Check in with older children (around 8 yrs. old) and offer dental care guidance to help keep their teeth healthy.

Offer healthy foods. Young children need nutritious foods to support their rapid growth. Much like the rest of the body, their teeth also need healthy foods to stay in good health. Offer your child choices from the five food groups: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products.

Limit sugary snacks and beverages.  Candies, cookies, sodas, juices, and other sweet treats can increase the risk of tooth decay. Try snacks such as cheese or yogurt. Offer water or milk in place of juice.

Prioritize dental appointments. Take the time to prepare for your child’s dental visit. Keep a positive attitude about visiting the dentist. This can help your child enjoy their regular visits and look forward to future appointments.

The role of a child

A child’s role is to practice proper daily toothbrushing and flossing methods taught by their parent or caregiver, and the dentist. A child’s role is actively engaging in their oral hygiene and healthy habits.

Supportive roles from community partners

Community partners can also take action to help prevent childhood cavities through education and community outreach in their settings:

Preventing tooth decay in a school setting. Teachers can help children learn about good dental care habits in their early childhood classrooms. School staff can also provide parents and caregivers with oral care resources and help find a dental provider for their children.

Providing oral care resources in a community program setting. Family programs and organizations such as WIC, MOMS Orange County, Families Together of Orange County, and family resource centers can provide oral health resources to families on the importance of oral care. Community outreach events can include oral health information and mobile dental services.

Related resources


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