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Build healthy dental habits with your kids

For each grade, the goals and objectives of the dental visit change.

Fall is a great time to begin or re-establish good dental habits with your children.

The state of Illinois requires that all children (public, private, and parochial) in kindergarten, second grade and sixth grade have an oral health examination with a signed Proof of Dental Examination Form signed by their dentist. If the dental forms are not turned in, the school may hold the child's report card.

DecisionOne Dental CEO Dr. AJ Acierno offers a "Back to School Dental Check List" for parents that includes vital information parents need to know for children of all ages.

For each grade, the goals and objectives of the dental visit change, Acierno says. Depending on the child's age, the dentist may discuss and perform the following treatments:

Kindergarten: Discuss brushing and flossing habits and take first X-rays to monitor cavities, as well as start tracking the adult teeth that start coming in around the age of 6.
Second Grade: Take care of their adult teeth and application of professional fluoride treatment or dental sealant.
Sixth Grade: Referrals to orthodontists, if necessary, along with a comprehensive dental exam.

Dr. Acierno recommends the following tips for families to help keep teeth healthy:

• Brushing twice a day for two minutes -- using an electric toothbrush that will stop or light up at the two-minute mark or even an egg timer will do.

• Flossing twice a day -- products like Flosstime, an automated dental floss dispenser, can help build healthy flossing habits.

• Modeling healthy good habits -- kids mirror their parents, so if they see their parents brushing and flossing, they will follow in their footsteps.

Your teeth are an indicator of overall health. The number one cause of tooth decay is caused by bacteria from sugar that produces acid in the mouth. Cutting back on sugary drinks and treats will not only improve your child's overall health, it will help their dental health as well.

Ask your dentist about cavity prevention such as dental sealant, a thin plastic coating put into the pits and fissures of teeth to act as a physical barrier to decay, and fluoride treatments, which prevent tooth decay by making the tooth more resistant to acid attacks from plaque bacteria and sugars in the mouth.

If your child is involved in sports, you can also talk to your dentist about a custom mouth-guard. It will be automatically correct, and provide the best protection, Acierno says. A custom mouth-guard costs about $80, should be worn for all sports, and can last up to three years if it is cleaned and stored properly after each use

"Although the state only requires seeing the dentist in kindergarten, second and sixth grade, all children should see the dentist every six months for cleanings and exams," said Acierno.

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