Happy Children's Oral Health Month

Posted on February 5, 2013 in Children’s Oral Health

Although cavities are nearly 100% preventable, more than one in four Illinois caregivers reported that their children had a cavity filled in the past year, according to a new survey released February 1 by Delta Dental of Illinois in conjunction with National Children's Dental Health Month. Among children who had a cavity in the past year, 51% had two or more cavities.

The 2013 Delta Dental of Illinois Children's Oral Health Survey shows that not only are Illinoisans unaware they can pass cavity-causing bacteria to children, but they also need to brush up on some critical children's dental health habits, including basics such as brushing and flossing.

These are some of the oral health habits that fall short of what's recommended by dental professionals, according to the Delta Dental survey of 151 Illinois caregivers.

  • Survey shows: 71% of caregivers say they share utensils such as a spoon, fork or glass with a child.
  • Delta Dental of Illinois recommends: Parents and caregivers should eliminate saliva-transferring behaviors – such as sharing utensils and toothbrushes and cleaning a pacifier with their mouths – all are activities that can pass harmful bacteria to a child.
  • Survey shows: 58% of Illinoisans with a child 4 years old or younger report that the child sometimes takes a nap or goes to bed with a bottle or sippy cup containing milk or juice.
  • Delta Dental of Illinois recommends: Parents and caregivers should not put a child to bed with a bottle of milk, juice, sweetened water or soft drinks – all can lead to baby bottle decay. Instead, caregivers should fill the bottle with water if a bottle or sippy cup is needed.
  • Survey shows: For children who have visited the dentist, the average age at the first visit was 3 years old.
  • Delta Dental of Illinois recommends: Children should first visit the dentist within six months of getting the first tooth – and no later than their first birthday.
  • Survey shows: Only 56% of children had their teeth brushed twice a day and 30% of children brush for less than two minutes.
  • Delta Dental of Illinois recommends: Children's teeth should be brushed twice a day for at least two minutes each time. Parents should assist with this task until the kids are about 6 years old.
  • Survey shows: 44% of parents or caregivers report that their children's teeth are never flossed, and of children whose teeth are flossed, only 19% are flossed daily.
  • Delta Dental of Illinois recommends: Once any two teeth are touching, caregivers should floss, or help the child floss, once a day.

Parents and caregivers need to teach good oral health habits to children at a young age to help prevent cavities. Baby teeth are very important. They 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.

During the month of February for Children's Dental Health Month,  and all year around, Delta Dental of Illinois is serious about its commitment to help improve the oral health of the people of Illinois. This month, we are uniting with dental professionals and others to educate caregivers and children about the importance of oral health. If we can help children understand the importance of good oral health and how to take care of their teeth at an early age, the benefits will last a lifetime. One way we help teach children is with Land of Smiles, sponsored by the Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation.

During the month of February, Delta Dental of Illinois will be discussing several children oral health topics on our blog so stay tuned for fun, educational content.

Dr. Katina Morelli, DDS, is the dental director for Delta Dental of Illinois and a dentist at South Barrington Dental.