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Trump case expected to head to the jury today; IN food banks concerned about draft Farm Bill; NH parents, educators urge veto of anti-LGBTQ+ bills; Study shows a precipitous drop in migratory fish populations, in US and worldwide.

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Dentists: Good oral hygiene, heathy diet prevent most tooth decay

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Monday, February 12, 2024   

Like the saying, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away," good dental habits developed by children early in life can keep cavities at bay and prevent costly trips to the dentist.

February is Children's Dental Health Month.

Barry 'BJ' Currey, a retired pediatric dentist and the chair of the Texas Smiles Foundation, reminded families that it only takes a few minutes a day to improve oral health.

"Prevention is not all that difficult if people will be conscientious about getting it done," said Currey. "There are a lot of school days that are missed by kids because they have dental pain or dental problems."

Currey said without proper dental care, cavities can go untreated and cause an infection. That can result in so much pain, kids can't concentrate at school or even eat their lunch.

In adults, untreated dental problems can cause inflammation resulting in periodontal disease - common in nearly half of adults 30 and older and among 70% of people 65 years and older.

Dr. Paul McConnell is dental director with UnitedHealthcare.

He said rural families may need to be assertive to overcome barriers to good dental health because finding a dentist who accepts Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program may be difficult.

And transportation can be an obstacle.

"Unfortunately, families may not have that general dentist that's right on the corner," said McConnell, "so the access sometimes may be a little bit more difficult because of travel."

Currey encouraged new parents to clean the gums of babies with a cotton swab, and give them a soft toothbrush to chew on when they start teething.

He said kids have a harder time developing good habits if parents wait until they're school age to begin a daily routine.

"If the parents don't have good healthy teeth and appreciate dental health, then their kids are not going to, either," said Currey. "So, somehow I think we need to get more dental health education into the schools at a younger age."

He said despite being largely preventable, dental decay ranks as the most common chronic condition among children - with nearly 50% of kids having at least one cavity by the age of eight.



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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