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Uncovering America's methamphetamine history; PA Early Intervention programs vital for child development; measuring long-term impact of the O.J. Simpson trial on media literacy.

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Parents' dental habits set the tone for kids' healthy teeth

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Monday, February 26, 2024   

February is Children's Dental Health Month and experts said getting kids started early on good oral care sets the stage for a healthy lifetime habit.

Illinois dentists said good oral hygiene must be part of every day and it is up to parents to encourage their kids to eat fruits and vegetables and limit sugary foods and drinks.

Dr. Frank Catalanotto, professor of dentistry at the University of Florida, said parents can start good dental habits for infants sprouting their first baby teeth, or 'buds,' by rubbing a soft dampened cloth against their gums.

"If the baby teeth are having problems, they're going to have problems with their adult teeth," Catalanotto pointed out.

He recommended children brush after every meal and for parents to set an example and brush alongside them. The Illinois Department of Health and Family Services advises not to put a baby to sleep with a bottle in their mouth, and discontinue bottle feeding by 12 months to help discourage tooth decay.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of kids ages 6-8 have had cavities in their baby teeth.

Dr. Paul McConnell, dental director for UnitedHealthcare, said while tooth decay may not seem significant for baby teeth, it can lead to future problems with permanent teeth. He explained the importance of helping children build a dental routine as early as possible.

"It's so much harder to start developing habits when kids are six, seven, eight years old, because you're introducing something that's different or something that's foreign," McConnell noted.

For kids who do not have the manual know-how to floss, an electric toothbrush is the next best thing. Experts recommended both children and adults should brush twice a day, for at least two minutes. It is also recommended children see a dentist every six months for checkups, even if they are not experiencing any problems.

Disclosure: UnitedHealthcare contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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