February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. And because families who encourage good oral health inspire children to pick up lifetime healthy habits, it’s worthwhile to remind ourselves of why dental health matters and review some helpful tips for encouraging kids to care for their smiles.

After all, a confident smile positively influences school, home, and relationships with friends and family. It’s one factor driving the Smile Doctors Rising Star program, which provides children 5-10 years old with complimentary, high-quality early care and growth monitoring that prepares them to reach their full smile potential.

Why is children’s dental health important?

For starters, dental cavities are the most common chronic disease in childhood. 1 in 5 children aged 5-11 years has at least one untreated cavity. Children with poor oral health are more likely to miss school and receive lower grades.

Good oral health in children not only reduces the chances of cavities, pain, and infections but is also linked to overall mental and physical health.

How can you support good oral health in your child?

Here are some ways to promote good oral health with your child.

  • Lead by example by prioritizing your oral health.
  • Take your child to see a dentist within their first year or within 6 months of their first tooth.
  • Teach them to brush their teeth for at least 2 minutes twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled brush.
  • Encourage your children to drink tap water that contains fluoride, a natural mineral that helps fight cavities.
  • Take your child to visit their dentist every 6 months. At their dentist appointment, ask your child’s dentist to apply sealants if needed to reduce the risk of cavities.

Why should my child see both a dentist and an orthodontist?

Dentists focus on the health conditions of your teeth, gums, tongue, and mouth and provide care by promoting good overall oral health, filling cavities, extracting teeth, cleaning teeth, and more.

Orthodontists are dental specialists in facial development and your bite. They diagnose misaligned teeth and jaws, create custom treatment plans, and install orthodontic devices. A proper bite and straight teeth are essential for oral health. Poorly aligned teeth can make it difficult to speak, bite, and chew, creating spaces for bacteria to develop that may lead to cavities.

General dentists and orthodontists focus on various aspects of dental health. Both types of doctors are important to your overall oral health.

Visit an orthodontist by age 7.

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that every child see an orthodontist by age 7—even before they have their big teeth. That’s because their little jaws are still developing as their adult teeth come in, and this can potentially lead to bigger issues without early intervention.

The goal of early treatment is to intercept developing challenges, eliminate causes, guide the growth of facial and jaw bones, and provide adequate space for incoming permanent teeth. In fact, many orthodontic issues are easier to correct if found and treated early.

Early orthodontic care may even help avoid costly treatments. Early treatment may reduce the need for extractions or impacted teeth later.

Our Rising Star program helps kids 5-10 years old reach their full smile potential with complimentary, high-quality care and growth monitoring. We also make it a lot of fun for kids, with free swag and lots of encouragement along the way. It’s all guided by our award-winning local orthodontists, who monitor and help direct your child’s smile development in a fun, friendly environment.

Find your local Orthodontist