Providers - Oral Health
Early childhood caries (ECC) is an especially severe form of dental cavities that affects young children's first set of teeth. Not only is ECC painful, it also can be embarrassing for the children who have it. If not treated, dental decay and the damage ECC causes can have major, lifelong effects.
The fact that dental decay affects more than 60 percent of AI/AN people presents a major challenge requiring a large-scale public health approach. Stopping dental decay in the primary and permanent teeth of AI/AN children starts now -- and it starts with you!
- 62 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) preschool children from 2 to5 years old have a history of dental decay.
- 44 percent have untreated dental decay.
What can you do in your center to support families and promote good oral health? Instruct children in Circle Brushing activities every day. Also, recommend to parents and caregivers the following:
- Babies should be seen by the dentist soon after the first tooth comes in or by the time he or she turns 1 year old..
- Milk or formula left on the teeth overnight causes cavities. Babies should never be put to bed with bottles.
- As soon as babies get their teeth, caregivers should clean them twice daily every day with a small smear of fluoride toothpaste, especially before bed.
- Between 9 and 24 months of age, children should have at least four fluoride varnish treatments by an oral health care provider.
- Parents and caregivers should provide healthful snacks. Sodas, sweets and refined starches should be limited or cut out altogether.
- Every Head Start child should have a dental home-an accessible IHS/Tribal dental clinic or private practice where he or she receives comprehensive oral health care.
- Head Start children should receive fluoride varnish treatments every three to four months to protect teeth from cavities.
- Parents should consider having dental sealants applied to a child's molars if he or she is found to be at risk for cavities.
- Parents and caregivers should make sure children know how important it is to brush their teeth every day with a small (pea-sized) dab of fluoride toothpaste.
Check out these resources to learn more about ways to prevent and treat dental cavities in AI/AN children and families
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