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Children's Dental Health Month: The 3 Fs

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- February is National Children's Dental Health Month, and the dental profession is making an extra effort to educate and treat as many children as possible.

We focus on children's dental health because many adults have mention their dental problems started when they were a kid. They often wish someone had helped them take care of their teeth a lot earlier.

Kids love candy, and unless children are taught at an early age to care for their teeth, they run the risk of having extensive and costly dental treatment their entire life.

When helping young children care for their teeth, parents can keep in mind the 3 F's.

1. Fluoride: When a child's teeth are forming, fluoride from drinking water and other sources incorporates into the outer layer of a tooth. This strengthens the enamel and makes it more resistant to cavities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that water fluoridation is the most efficient way to prevent tooth decay.
Other sources of fluoride include toothpastes, and fluoride supplements. Children can get too much fluoride if they are brushing their teeth with too much toothpaste. A pea-sized amount is sufficient. If a child lives in an area with fluoridated water they do not generally need fluoride supplements. Jacksonville currently has the optimal fluoride levels in the city water.

2. Frequent check-ups. Children can be seen by a dentist as early as 6-months. This is a good time for young parents to talk to the dentist about how to take care of their child's teeth. Frequent recalls every 6-months are important in order to continue educating the child and the parents.

3. Forbid juice and milk in the bottle at bedtime. Children who go to bed with a bottle that has juice or milk run the risk of developing "baby bottle" tooth decay. This can be devastating to young kids, often leading to rampant tooth decay and some extractions. Losing baby teeth at an early age is traumatic for children and parents, and the memory of that first horrible dental experience can linger for a long time. Stick to water and you can't go wrong!
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