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ADA Offers Tips To Promote Oral Health for Adolescents

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, and the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that parents act early to insure the health of their children’s teeth, as it will affect their overall health in the long-term. And, attitudes and habits established at an early age are critical in maintaining good oral health throughout life, according to the ADA.

Dental Visits

The ADA recommends regular check-ups — including a visit to the dentist within six months of the eruption of the first tooth and no later than the child’s first birthday — as well as preventive care measures such as cleanings and fluoride treatment. Routine dental exams uncover problems that can be treted in the early stages. When necessary, x-rays should be taken to see how the teeth are developing and to spot hidden decay.

Fluoride Benefits

Fluoride is considered one of the most effective elements for preventing tooth decay and can be used in various ways to protect your child. Dentists recommend:

  • drinking fluoridated water;

  • taking prescribed fluoride tablets or drops, only if you don’t live in a fluoridated community;

  • fluoride application in the dental office;

  • brushing with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste; and

  • using a fluoride mouth rinse for children over age 6.

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Baby bottle tooth decay (BBTD) occurs when a child frequently is exposed to such sugary liquids as milk (including breast milk), fruit juice and other sweet liquids, and can destroy the child’s teeth. The ADA offers the following steps to prevent your child from developing BBTD:

  • Begin clearing your baby’s mouth during the first few days after birth. Wipe the baby’s gums with a damp washcloth to remove plaque after every feeding.

  • Don’t allow your child to nurse or breast feed for prolonged periods and don’t give him or her a bottle with milk, formula, sugar water or juice during naps or at night in bed.

  • Encourage your child to drink from a cup by his or her first birthday.

  • Disourage frequent use of a training cup.

  • Help your child develop healthy eating habits early.


Because children who suck their thumb risk improper growth of the mouth and tooth misalignment, the ADA advises that children should stop thumbsucking by the time permanent teeth come in, usually around 6 or 7 years old. You can offer praise and rewards to your child for not sucking the thumb; however, if this doesn’t work the ADA suggests consulting with your dentist.

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