Children's dental health month

Dental DBD image 2February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. Did you know that your children should have visited a dentist by the time they’ve reached the age of 12 months? You can find other helpful information like this at Children’s Dental Health Center.

Massachusetts passed a new children’s dental health law that went into effect January 1 of this year. The state Department of Early Education & Care now requires all children in day care longer than four hours and/or who eat a meal, to have their teeth brushed on-site.

Some parents think that day care providers already have enough on their plate without adding this to the mix, while others have voiced concerns about the possibility of spreading germs.

But Children’s Dentist-in-Chief, Manwai Ng, DDS, MPH, thinks this new law is a great idea.

In this Boston Globe letter to the editor, Dr. Ng makes her case:

We see young children every day with pain and infection from untreated early childhood tooth decay. Children as young as 2 commonly present with eight or more cavities. Each year, we take more than 500 patients to the operating room to provide dental care under general anesthesia.

Ultimately, parents are responsible for the oral health care of their children. However, with many young children spending more time in preschool and day care than at home, tooth brushing during the day can help prevent and control tooth decay.

But what about parents who are worried that the day care providers just won’t do a good enough job brushing their kids’ teeth?

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health offers training and guidance on tooth brushing for day care providers. It covers everything from how to brush kids’ teeth to how to properly store the tooth brushes to when tooth brushes need to be replaced.

Some parents have voiced concerns over American Dental Association guidelines advocate brushing only twice a day.

“Brushing twice a day is meant to be a starting point for the minimum amount to brush every day,” says Dr. Ng. This law doesn’t mandate that day care providers brush the kids’ teeth after every meal. It’ll only happen once during their daily visit.

Children brushing teethIf you still don’t like the idea of having your kids’ day care providers brush their teeth, you can always opt out. Whether or not your kids are getting their teeth brushed at day care, teaching your children good oral health is something you should start early.

Forty percent of children will have a cavity by the time they reach kindergarten. Teaching your kids to brush and floss – and to do it often – should be on every parents to-do list.

What do you think about Massachusetts’ new tooth brushing law?