February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, an opportunity for us to educate parents about the importance of regular dental examinations and limiting a child’s exposure to substances that can harm the teeth and gums.

Oral health is important, especially for young ones as their teeth are only starting to grow. When kept unclean, long-term effects or conditions may arise. Parents also need to limit exposure of a baby’s teeth to liquids such as fruit juice, milk or formula, all of which contain sugar.

Parents can stress the importance of regular brushing and flossing by making these activities part of a child’s daily habits, perhaps ritualized before bedtime as a routine matter.

As children grow older, they may be tempted to try chewing tobacco or smoking which can lead to cancer and nicotine addiction. Chewing tobacco users are more susceptible to tooth decay due to the product’s higher sugar content.

Children’s teeth are meant to last a lifetime, and a healthy smile is important to a child’s self-esteem. With proper care, a balanced diet and regular dental visits, their teeth can remain healthy and strong.

Talk to your dentist for more information. If your child has not had a dental examination, schedule a ― well baby checkup for his or her teeth. The American Dental Association says that it is beneficial for the first dental visit to occur within six months of the appearance of the first tooth, and no later than the child’s first birthday.