Dental hygiene refers to the practice of keeping the mouth, teeth, and gums
clean and healthy to prevent disease. Dental hygiene and
are often taken for granted but are essential parts of our everyday lives.
Tooth decay (cavities) is a common problem for people of all ages. For
children, untreated cavities can cause pain, absence from school, difficulty
concentrating on learning, and poor appearance, all problems that greatly affect
quality of life and ability to succeed. Children from lower income families
often do not receive timely treatment for tooth decay and are more likely to
suffer from these problems. Tooth decay also is a problem for many adults.
Adults of some racial and ethnic groups experience more untreated decay.
Periodontal (gum) disease is an infection caused by bacteria under the gum
tissue that begin to destroy the gums and bone. Teeth become loose, chewing
becomes difficult, and teeth may have to be extracted. Gum disease may also be
related to damage elsewhere in the body; recent studies point to associations
between oral infections and diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and preterm,
low-weight births. Research is underway to further examine these connections.
Many children and adults still go without simple measures that have been
proven effective in preventing oral diseases and reducing dental care costs. For
example, fluoride prevents tooth decay, and the most cost-effective way to
deliver the benefits of fluoride to all residents of a community is through
water fluoridation; that is, adjusting the fluoride in the public water
supply to the appropriate level for decay prevention. Dental sealants, plastic
coatings applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth where most decay
occurs, are another safe, effective way to prevent cavities. However, only about
one-third of children aged 6–19 years have sealants. Although children from
lower income families are almost twice as likely to have decay as those from
higher income families, they are only half as likely to have sealants.
Here are some things you can do to ensure good oral health for your child:
- Encourage your children to eat regular nutritious meals and avoid
frequent between-meal snacking.
- Protect your child’s teeth with fluoride.
- Use a fluoride toothpaste. If your child is less
than 7 years old, put only a pea-sized amount on
their toothbrush. Seek advice from a dentist or
other health care professional before
introducing fluoride toothpaste to children
under 2 years of age.
- If your drinking water is not fluoridated, talk to a dentist or physician
about the best way to protect your child’s
- Talk to your child’s dentist about
dental sealants. They protect teeth from decay.
- Regularly floss teeth.
Proper tooth brushing is critically important to good dental hygiene. Parents
can help their children practice proper tooth brushing by starting to clean
teeth early, using the right amount of fluoride toothpaste, supervising tooth
brushing, and talking to a pediatrician or dentist about a child’s specific
fluoride needs. More information on caring for children’s teeth may be found at
Brush Up on Healthy Teeth pages.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and