First dental exam by age 1, because ‘Baby Teeth Matter’

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month

WEST ALLIS, WIS., Feb. 18, 2013 – A lifetime of healthy, pain-free smiles begins with a dental exam around a child’s first birthday – that’s the focus of the Wisconsin Dental Association’s “Baby Teeth Matter” public awareness campaign, which is kicking off its third year with a new TV spot and more.

“The WDA wants parents to know the first dental visit is as important a milestone in a baby’s first year as the first hug, first smile and first step,” explained WDA President Dr. Timothy Durtsche of La Crosse, Wis. “National Children’s Dental Health Month is the perfect time to promote the relatively simple, painless and inexpensive infant oral health exam as an important ‘first’ in a young child’s life.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports cavities in children ages 2-5 have increased 14 percent in the last decade. Tooth decay, a preventable disease, is five times more prevalent than asthma in American children.

However, a February 2005 Children’s Dental Health Project report found 5-year-olds who had their first dental visit at age 1 incurred oral health-related costs at a rate about one-half that of their peers who didn’t see a dentist until age 5.

The WDA, American Dental Association and American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommend children be examined by a doctor of dental surgery (DDS) or doctor of dental medicine (DMD) no later than age 1.

“Early examination and identification of high-risk children by a dentist followed by appropriate intervention, such as fluoride varnish, treatment of small cavities or referral to a specialist, combined with education of parents and caregivers can prevent dental disease and significantly reduce the long-term costs and pain associated with undiagnosed decay,” Durtsche added.

The WDA will use public awareness TV spots, press releases, website content, social media posts and patient education materials throughout 2013 to drive home the fact that an infant oral health exam by age 1 helps prevent early childhood dental disease and its negative impact on physical, social and emotional development.

Visit WDA.org for “Baby Teeth Matter” resources, including video clips on how to prevent early childhood tooth decay.

Parents and caregivers are invited to post comments about the “Baby Teeth Matter” public awareness

campaign or ask questions about children’s dental health on the WDA Facebook wall. Use the special #babyteethmatter hash tag when sending tweets on Twitter to connect quickly with more tips to help keep young smiles healthy.

“Good personal daily oral hygiene, appropriate use of fluoride, properly placed sealants, routine professional dental exams and early restorative care help prevent dental disease,” Durtsche added. “This saves patients of all ages from infection, pain and the need for more advanced and expensive treatment.”

Tips for preventing cavities in baby teeth

  • Moms and moms-to-be need a dental exam and necessary care, good daily oral hygiene and healthy diet to avoid transmitting cavity germs to baby
  • Fill bottle with breast milk, formula or water only
  • Fill bedtime bottle with water only
  • Offer juice at meals or snack times beginning at age 1
  • Children should drink from a cup by age 1
  • Never dip pacifier in anything sweet (e.g., sugar, honey)
  • Clean pacifier with hot water and soap and rinse thoroughly; never “clean” in another person’s mouth
  • Provide healthy snacks (e.g., meat, peanut butter, milk, yogurt, cheese, fruits and vegetables)
  • Limit sweets in quantity, portion size and frequency
  • Before baby teeth appear, use clean, warm cloth to gently wipe gums and inside of mouth after feedings and before bed
  • After first tooth appears, brush twice a day with soft, age-appropriate sized toothbrush and “smear” of fluoridated toothpaste