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Since 1981, the American Dental Association (ADA) has proclaimed February as National Children’s Dental Health Month. This annual observance brings together dentists, other healthcare providers and teachers to promote the benefits of good oral health to children, their parents and caregivers. Why is this month-long campaign necessary? According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than half of children ages six to eight have had a cavity in at least one of their baby (primary) teeth, and about 20% of children between the ages of five to 11 have at least one untreated decayed tooth. Raising awareness among parents about the importance of establishing good oral hygiene and good oral health practices will help children enjoy a healthy smile for a lifetime! In fact, the theme for this year’s National Children’s Dental Health Month is “Healthy habits for healthy smiles.” So let’s get started! Teaching Proper Brushing Techniques and Establishing Good Oral Hygiene Habits You may not have thought about it, but getting off to the right start with oral hygiene begins long before your child can grasp a toothbrush! As our blog post ― “How to Instill Good Oral Hygiene Habits in Your Child” ― covers, start when your child is still an infant. After your baby is finished feeding (either formula or breast milk), wipe down their gums using a moist washcloth. Once teething starts, graduate to a finger toothbrush. This brush is made of rubber, has soft bristles and slips on to the index finger. Gently rub the finger brush along your baby’s gum line and around the emerging teeth. When the first tooth fully erupts, use the finger brush or a soft-bristle infant-sized toothbrush. Apply a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste ― no larger than a grain of rice ― to brush twice a day. Most babies develop teeth between ages six and 12 months, with the full set of primary teeth erupted by age three. At age three ― or whenever your child can comfortably handle a toothbrush ― teach proper brushing technique, brushing at a 45° angle toward the gumline in a back-and-forth motion. Help your child brush twice a day for two minutes with a pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste. Teach your child to spit the toothpaste out and avoid swallowing, because it can upset the “tummy.” When your child has teeth that touch, help them floss once a day. Taking your child shopping and allowing them to pick out a toothbrush will give them a “buy-in” in the process and make them feel involved. Parental supervision and guidance is essential during these early years. Establish regular times for brushing, as well as a routine. Kids often want to do things their own way, so teaching proper brushing technique will most likely be an ongoing effort. Keep in mind that children are too young to fully understand why they need to brush, so it’s up to you to be consistent! At around age eight, children can typically handle brushing on their own. They may still need assistance in flossing until their manual dexterity further develops, usually by age 10. At this stage, continue to make sure they stay on schedule and do a thorough job until they can grasp the importance of regular brushing and flossing, and have the ability to take over and assume the responsibility for themselves. The Importance of Fluoride in Protecting Your Child’s Teeth You may have noticed that we make frequent reference to fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride keeps tooth enamel strong and helps prevent cavities. Getting enough fluoride in childhood is critical to strengthening teeth over an entire lifetime. Children need fluoride to strengthen their developing and emerging teeth — which include primary (baby) teeth. Although most mass-market toothpaste brands contain fluoride, there are two types of fluoride compounds: stannous fluoride and sodium fluoride. Stannous fluoride is an antibacterial agent that’s clinically proven to protect against gingivitis, plaque and tooth sensitivity, while protecting against cavities. Sodium fluoride protects against cavities, but doesn’t provide protection from these other conditions. Most communities in the United States (including Chicago) add fluoride to their water supply. As our blog post — “Fluoride: Myths and Facts” — covers, although fluoride toothpaste is very effective in preventing tooth decay, fluoridated water provides extra protection. According to the Campaign for Dental Health, a 2010 study confirmed that the fluoridated water consumed as a young child makes the loss of teeth due to decay less likely 40 or 50 years later. Moreover, according to Campaign for Dental Health — a program of the American Academy of Pediatrics — the benefits of water fluoridation build on those from fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride toothpaste alone is not enough, which is why pediatricians and dentists often prescribe fluoride tablets to children living in non-fluoridated areas. Your child’s dentist may recommend an in-office fluoride varnish treatment. This consists of a concentrated form of fluoride, painted onto the top and sides of the teeth. The varnish itself is not a permanent layer — it stays on the teeth for several hours, allowing the fluoride to seep into the enamel and strengthen the teeth. Adults can benefit from this treatment, as well. When You Should Schedule Your Child’s First Dental Appointment Regularly scheduled visits to the dentist are critical to your child’s oral — as well as overall — health. According to the ADA and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), a child’s first visit should be when the first tooth erupts in the mouth — no later than age one. According to the ADA, a baby can get cavities as soon as he or she has teeth. However, as you know, children aren’t small-scale adults. Just as they need a pediatric doctor who focuses on their health, they also need a dentist who has the experience and qualifications to care for a child’s teeth, gums and mouth throughout the various stages of childhood. For this reason, you should find a pediatric dentist. As our blog post — “What is Pediatric Dentistry?” — covers, a pediatric dentist differs from a general dentist in some significant ways. Pediatric dentists have completed at least four years of dental school, plus two to three additional years of residency training in dentistry for infants, children, teens and children with special needs. Just as importantly, pediatric dentists receive instruction in child psychology — allowing them to appropriately address the emotions and energies that children bring to the chair so that the young patient is calm and cooperates with treatment. Pediatric dentists avoid threatening words like “drill,” “needle” and “injection.” Dental phobias beginning in childhood often continue into adulthood, so it’s important that children have a positive experience. A pediatric dentist can recognize early signs of trouble — such as tooth decay — and monitor primary teeth as they emerge to ensure they’re growing in properly positioned (and recommend orthodontic intervention if they’re not). The following list of the advantages a pediatric dentist offers is compiled from information provided by healthychildren.org and Kids Pediatric Dentistry: Infant oral health exams, which include risk assessment for caries. Preventive dental care ― including cleaning and fluoride treatments, as well as nutrition and diet recommendations. Habit counseling (for example, prolonged pacifier use and thumb sucking). Early assessment and treatment for straightening teeth and correcting an improper bite (orthodontics). Repair of tooth cavities or defects. Diagnosis of oral conditions associated with diseases such as diabetes​, congenital heart defect, asthma, hay fever, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD​). Management of gum diseases and conditions. Use of instruments that are specifically designed for children’s dental care. Care for dental injuries (for example, fractured, displaced, or knocked-out teeth). The Take-Home Message National Children’s Dental Health Month focuses attention on the importance of establishing good oral health habits that will become established into adulthood. By making your child’s oral health a priority, every month will be National Children’s Dental Health Month— at least, in your family! While NK Family Dental treats patients of all ages, we give children the specialized attention they deserve! The spa-like ambiance of our office creates a tranquil environment in which Dr. Nilofer Khan and her staff talk to young patients at their level of understanding, giving them a “tour” of the examination room and gently explaining each step of the procedure. We believe that one of the many advantages NK Family Dental offers is that we are able to treat every member of your family under one roof, at every stage of life. The child you trust to our care from that first appointment can continue here through the teen years to adulthood, always treated by compassionate professionals. It is our mission to provide the highest quality and most compassionate oral care to our Chicago patients, including both dental and periodontal services. Our practice is trusted for advanced oral surgery procedures and comfortable root canal treatment. Our team of experienced, dedicated dental professionals will help address your oral health concerns, and determine the best solution for you based on your individual situation. We strive to identify treatment options that fit your needs. Our dental specialists include our general dentist, Dr. Nilofer Khan, our endodontist, Dr. Sabek, and our periodontist, Dr. Amir Danesh. Dr. Danesh is a board-certified periodontist and Diplomat of the American Board of Periodontology. He has contributed to the publication of two books, as well as published over 20 papers in prestigious dental research journals. We serve the neighborhoods of Logan Square, Bucktown, Humboldt Park, and Wicker Park with the dedication that’s earned us the reputation as the Best Dentist in Chicago! We understand that the main concern you may have is cost, which is why we accept all major PPO plans for dental insurance and also offer our in-house dental plan. Please see our financing page for more information. Schedule your visit through ZocDoc, or contact us directly. We look forward to treating you soon!
February is Children’s Dental Health Month

Since 1981, the American Dental Association (ADA) has proclaimed February as National Children’s Dental Health Month. This annual observance brings together dentists, other healthcare providers and teachers to promote the benefits of good oral health to children, their parents and caregivers. Why is this month-long campaign necessary? According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention…

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