Since the American Dental Association recognizes February as National Children's Dental Health Month, it's time to for parents to brush up on their children's oral health habits.
Although cavities are nearly 100 percent preventable, more than one in four American caregivers reported that their children had a cavity filled in the past year, according to the 2013 Delta Dental Children's Oral Health survey. Among children who had a cavity in the past year, 53 percent had two or more cavities.
The survey of nearly 1,000 caregivers also found 75 percent of parents say they share utensils such as a spoon, fork or glass with a child, which according to the dental community, can pass cavity-causing bacteria to children. As a mother of a toddler, I often try my daughter's food before giving it to her, or even let her take a sip of water out of my cup. I never thought this habit could affect her dental health!
According to Delta Dental, parents and caregivers should eliminate saliva-transferring behaviors, such as sharing utensils or toothbrushes, and cleaning a pacifier with their mouths -- all activities which can pass harmful bacteria to a child. Here are some more surprising stats from the survey:
* For children who've visited the dentist, the average age at the first visit was 3 years old. Delta Dental suggests children should first visit the dentist within six months of getting their first tooth -- and no later than the first birthday.
* Only 58 percent of children had their teeth brushed twice a day and 34 percent of children brush for less than two minutes. Dental professionals recommend children's teeth should be brushed twice a day for a least two minutes each time, and parents should assist with the task until the kids are about 6 years old.
* Forty-three percent of parents or caregivers report their children's teeth are never flossed, and of children whose teeth are flossed, only 23 percent are flossed daily. Once any two teeth are touching, Delta Dental recommends caregivers should floss, or help the child floss, once a day.
My husband and I have tried to make brushing our daughter's teeth part of her daily routine, but she'd rather suck on the toothbrush and run around than actually use it. I've tried singing the "ABC's" as I brush her teeth so she knows at the end of the song, we're finished.
There are also many toothbrushes that cater to kids, helping to make brushing a more enjoyable experience. For example, the FireFly Toothbrush ($.99-$3) flashes bright lights for one minute and features characters such as Hello Kitty, Spider-Man and Strawberry Shortcake. Other toothbrushes play music, like The Brush Buddies ($4.99 and up), that play songs from Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, LMFAO and more.