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The month of February is observed as National Children’s Dental Health Month. As we talk about dental health and hygiene, it is often neglected, and treatment is sought only after it reaches a stage, where medicines or changes in brushing techniques or other minimal procedures are ineffective.

It is essential for parents to pay attention to the oral health of their children as it is imperative that some teeth are formed in-utero (i.e., in the wombs of the mothers). Food, brushing techniques, and other habits determine the oral environments of the children, as they grow up.

There are certain oral hygiene habits that should be kept in mind by the parents so that they can ensure a sound oral environment for their children
Toddlers should be empowered to understand good oral hygiene and they should be given the opportunity to know about good oral health habits.
Parents should ensure that the children do not consume sweets, chocolates, or sweetened drinks, which release acids – leading to teeth decay and the formation of dental plaque, and caries (cavities).
Children should be reinforced about oral health and hygiene by story-telling and playful methods, rather than scaring them about bad oral health.
It is imperative that parents should always “do and show”, i.e., practice what they want their children to follow and do.
A mandatory follow-up to the dentist, once every six months or a year, should be inculcated as adults in their futures.
Oral health should be treated as necessary, as physical health.

Specific patterns of effects have been observed in children whose oral health has been neglected
or who were not well-exposed to good oral habits

Deterioration in oral health conditions – leading to dental extractions. In the initial stages, these could have been treated by sealants or restorations.
Absenteeism due to toothache.
Reduced gum health conditions – chances of periodontal diseases in the future.
Increased costs incurred due to extensive and invasive dental procedures.
Nevertheless, it is always advisable to visit the dentist, when in doubt. It is better to get an expert opinion, than self-medication.

She writer Dr. Chandrima Chaterjee is currently working in the domain of pharmacovigilance. She has experience in working in Public Health, with an inclination toward mental health. She is a dental surgeon by profession and has more than three years of experience in consultation and other dental procedures.