Help prevent the costly pains of tooth decay and dental disease by addressing oral hygiene early in your child’s life. Broader health problems, including heart disease and stroke, are also linked to poor oral health. February is National Children's Dental Health Month. Use these tips from WVU Medicine pediatric dentist Michael Bagby, DDS, PhD to help your child maintain a healthy smile:

1. Get acquainted with a dentist early.
Make a WVU Dental Care appointment after your child gets his or her first baby tooth and no later than their first birthday. A dentist will help you learn best practices for cleaning teeth, using fluoride, and other ways to prevent tooth decay. As soon as teeth appear, decay can occur. Taking your child to the dentist early in life may also help reduce anxiety or fear about going to the dental office. Get a check-up every six months.

Dr. Michael Bagby

2. Brush your child's teeth until at least age six.
Technique is important to adequately prevent cavities; clean your child's teeth by brushing all tooth surfaces in tiny circles for two minutes twice a day. Make oral care fun by using kid-themed products. Allow them to help if they'd like, but go over their teeth again to remove any remaining cavity-causing bacteria they might have missed. When your child develops teeth that touch one another, floss their teeth regularly until about age 10. Once they get the hang of it, be a good role model and brush and floss with them.

3. Consider sealants.
Sealants can prevent most cavities in the biting surfaces of your child's back teeth. A pediatric dentist fills in the grooves of the teeth with a plastic material similar to modern white fillings. Once sealants are in place, cavity-causing bacteria no longer has room to grow in your child's teeth.

4. Use a mouth guard during sports.
It’s fun to cheer for your child’s team from the sidelines, but sports can leave kids vulnerable to chipped or broken teeth. Provide your child with the appropriate sports gear, including a mouth guard.

5. Cut back on sugar.
Frequently drinking soda and sugary drinks can increases your child’s risk of obesity and dental disease. Drink more water or flavored water that is lower in sugar. Set a good example by making healthy choices with your child.

Make an appointment: 855-WVU-CARE