Over the past couple decades the emphasis on children's dental health has shifted to younger and younger children, to the point that many groups now encourage parents with babies as young as 1 year old to visit the dentist.
It's incredibly important, said Dr. Richard Staller of Advanced Dentistry South Florida. They've shown now that oral health is really related to systemic health, especially when you are growing.
Like many children's health issues, youths living in poverty are most affected by a lack of dental care. Some of the statistics are shocking.
- Nearly 20 percent of kids between the ages of 2 and 19 have cavities that have not been treated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- An estimated 51 million school hours are lost each year due to dental-related problems.
- Dental problems not only affect the mouth, they can affect the self-esteem of children, keeping them from smiling or engaging in conversation.
Staller adds that poor oral health can often affect a child's performance in school, which is another solid reason to observe National Children's Dental Health Month.
If kids don't have teeth they don't eat well and they don't function well in school, he said.
Staller practices general dentistry, but he recommends visits to pediatric dentists for parents who ask. Pediatric dentists often have smaller chairs that are more comfortable for children and tools better sized to work within a child's mouth.
Taking children to see the dentist at an early age also gets them into the routine of visiting the dentist, which should benefit them throughout their lives.
And for those who wonder why it's important to bother with baby teeth that will only fall out of their own accord anyway, remember that those primary teeth establish the spacing for a growing child's permanent teeth. Premature loss of baby teeth could lead to the need for braces or worse later in life.
So any parents out there waiting until there is a problem or until your children are a little older before taking them to see a dentist, let National Children's Dental Health Month be the impetus for a trip to the office.
Also, be sure to visit the Care To Click Children page, where you can donate a free click or print useful coupons. At CareToClick.com, your small actions prompt our donations that help children in need.