Top 5 Reasons Why Early Dental Visits are Important

Most American children don’t see their family dentist until they are over 3 years old, far later than is recommended by both dental and medical professionals.

That’s one of the key findings from a survey of American children’s oral health, [1] conducted on behalf of Delta Dental Plans Association (DDPA), the nation’s leading dental benefits provider.

The survey revealed that for those children ages 1 to 11 that had seen a dentist, the average age at the initial visit was 3.1 years.  The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that a child go to the dentist by age 1 or within six months after the first tooth erupts. [2] Almost half of children under age 3 in this survey had never been to the dentist.

Tooth decay is nearly 100 percent preventable. So it’s important to begin good oral health habits, like visiting the dentist, at a young age. Studies show that early preventive dental care such as check-ups and cleanings can save in future dental treatment costs.

Among children who have never visited the dentist or who have not seen a dentist in the past 12 months, the most mentioned reason (52 percent) was that “the child is too young” or “doesn’t have enough teeth yet.” Lack of insurance coverage was cited by 16 percent of the caregivers.

What to Expect at Your Child’s First Visit

During a typical first visit, the dentist will:

  • Examine your child’s teeth for early signs of decay, but will also look for problems with the baby’s head, neck, jaws, skin and soft tissues in and around the mouth like the tongue, cheeks and lips. Your child’s bite, facial growth and development will also be assessed.
  • Demonstrate various tooth brushing and flossing techniques and positions to help parents care for their baby’s teeth properly.
  • Discuss diet and feeding/snacking practices that may put the child at risk for decay.
  • Address the use of topical fluoride.
  • Provide information about trauma prevention.

[1] Morpace Inc. conducted the 2011 Delta Dental Children’s Oral Health Survey. Interviews were conducted by email nationally with 907 primary caregivers of children from birth to age 11. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of error is ±3.25 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

[2] American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry – Policy on the Dental Home. http://www.aapd.org/media/Policies_Guidelines/P_DentalHome.pdf

Take it to Heart: Oral Health is Important

Heart disease has been the leading cause of death in the U.S. since 1921, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which estimated that nearly 1.24 million people – or 141 every hour  and 2.35 every minute – suffered a new or recurrent heart attack in 2010.1 Valentine’s Day – a holiday commonly associated with the heart – seems like the perfect time to point out the connection between oral health and heart health.

Researchers continue to find associations between periodontal (gum) disease and other chronic health conditions including heart disease. Persons with periodontal disease and heart disease share common risk factors such as smoking, older age, low-income status and obesity. Ongoing studies are attempting to determine questions such as if you treat the gum disease will you lower the likelihood of developing or worsening heart disease?

A mix of conditions, behaviors and genetics including high cholesterol and blood pressure, diabetes, smoking and a combination of poor diet and insufficient exercise leading to obesity have helped keep coronary ailments king. Genetics likely has some role in high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other heart disease factors. Odds are that an individual you know and love has dealt with some kind of heart ailment in their lifetime.

Studies show that people with periodontal (gum) disease may be at a higher risk for coronary artery disease (CAD), the most common type of heart disease, than those without it. Researchers are now trying to determine if bacteria and inflammation in the gum tissues as a result of periodontal disease contribute to the clogging of arteries and lead to CAD. 2 

So, for your heart’s sake practice sound dental hygiene habits like brushing and flossing teeth twice daily and eating healthfully. In particular, don’t smoke cigarettes or use other tobacco products. Finally, make time for regular dental check-ups. It is an oft-neglected, but vital aspect of maintaining good oral health. Like most diseases, periodontal disease is much easier to treat and control if discovered early.

Your dentist and hygienist play a major role in detecting and treating any gum problems. Based on what they see in your mouth, they may also suggest you see your physician to evaluate you for other important health problems including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Roger V, Go, A, Lloyd-Jones, D, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2011 update. a report from the American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee Circulation 2011;123:e1-e192.

2“Gum Disease Links to Heart Disease and Stroke.”American Academy of Periodontology, May 8, 2008. www.perio.org/consumer/mbc.heart.htm Accessed 2010.

Top 7 Reasons Why a Baby’s Oral Health Care Should Begin at Birth

Most American caregivers don’t realize that cavities are nearly 100 percent preventable, according to a survey of American children’s oral health by Delta Dental Plans Association (DDPA).1 Tooth decay can develop any time after the teeth erupt into the mouth starting at about 6 months of age. So, it’s important to establish good oral health habits from birth to ward off cavity-causing bacteria.

Caregivers might think that caring for their child’s baby teeth is unimportant because they will eventually fall out. But baby teeth help children chew and speak properly, and hold space for permanent teeth. If a child has healthy baby teeth, chances are he or she will have healthy adult teeth, too.

Before the first tooth erupts, caregivers should wipe their baby’s gums with a damp washcloth or soft infant toothbrush after meals to help keep bacteria levels low and maintain a clean home for new teeth. According to the survey, while almost three-quarters of Americans (72 percent) knew that it’s important to clean a baby’s gums with a soft cloth before the teeth surface, 28 percent reported never actually cleaning their baby’s gums.

Nearly one out of five caregivers (17 percent) with a child 4 years old or younger report that he or she goes to bed every night with a bottle or sippy cup containing milk or juice. It’s a mistake to put a child to bed with a bottle of milk, juice, sweetened water or soda, however, because the frequent exposure to sugar can lead to severe tooth decay – often called baby bottle decay. Instead, caregivers should fill the bottle with water.

Here are some additional steps you can take to ensure your little one has a healthy smile through childhood and into adulthood.

  • Avoid sharing toothbrushes, bottles, spoons and straws to protect your baby from the transfer of cavity-causing bacteria.
  • As soon as the first tooth erupts, begin brushing with a small, soft-bristled toothbrush and water at least once a day, preferably before bedtime. Once any two of your child’s teeth are touching, it’s time to start flossing once a day.
  • Within six months of getting the first tooth – and no later than the first birthday – your baby should have his or her first dental visit.
  • By the time your child is 2 (or by the time he or she can spit), start using a pea-sized dab of fluoride toothpaste. Train your child to spit out the toothpaste and rinse afterward and help your child brush properly twice a day.
  • You should help brush and floss (or at least supervise) until age 7 or 8 or until your child can properly care for his or her teeth alone.

 1Morpace Inc. conducted the 2011 Delta Dental Children’s Oral Health Survey. Interviews were conducted by email nationally with 907 primary caregivers of children from birth to age 11. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of error is ±3.25 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.