BELOIT - Prioritizing kid's teeth is what the Beloit Area Community Health Center (BACHC) is asking the community to keep in mind with February being National Children's Dental Health Month. Dr. Katie Wilson recommends that parents establish a dental home for their children by their first birthday at the latest.
"The main thing to keep in mind is how important baby teeth are," Wilson said. "They can cause cavities and pain, and that can be traumatic for kids."
She said seeing a dentist before kids are one means they'll be used to sitting in the chair and having a dentist examine their mouth.
"Having a stranger put their hands in their mouth can be a strange experience for kids," Wilson said.
She also asks parents to consider not using negative words when referring to dentists. Trying to keep it positive will limit the possibility of the kids being scared by dentists.
Many parents wait until the child is five years old to have them see a dentist, because parents will wait until their kid is in school or they can see a cavity or other anomaly.
Wilson said waiting that long can be problematic for children's oral health.
"As soon as parents can see the cavities it means they've progressed pretty far," Wilson said.
She said it's common for children to develop cavities, especially if they have a bottle in bed or drink juice throughout the day.
"I've seen kids as young as one have cavities," Wilson said.
Kids should start brushing as soon as they have teeth, and she said it's recommended parents start wiping their child's gums with a towel even before they have teeth.
Children, like adults, should brush two times per day and should start flossing as soon as their teeth are touching.
Parents should be brushing their kid's teeth until the kids are 5 years old.
"Usually we say if they can't tie their shoes, they can't brush their teeth," Wilson said. "Even after five it's recommended parents go in after kids brush and help them brush again."
Though BACHC's dental clinic is busy with patients, staff members try to get kids in for appointments as soon as possible. The clinic accepts all insurances and offers a sliding fee to work within a family's income. For more information, call 608-361-0311 or visit chsofwi.org.