By Joseph Blodgett, MD

Guest Columnist

During the Month of the Young Child, it’s important to keep our children’s health at the forefront of our thinking.

Did you know the No. 1 chronic disease in young children is dental cavities? Cavities are five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than allergies. A child is at risk for dental cavities as soon as their first tooth erupts, which on average is between 5 and 9 months of age.

Risk factors for developing dental cavities include cavities in the mom (or primary caregiver), walking around with a bottle or sippy cup, going to bed with a bottle, frequent snacking, having previous cavities and no fluoride in the drinking water (such as well water found in this area of the state).

To help prevent dental cavities, it is recommended that every child have a dentist established by the age of 1. Fluoride varnish applied by your dentist or pediatrician every six months after the first tooth erupts will help reduce the number of cavities. Parents should not let their child walk around sipping on a bottle or sippy cup with milk or juice. In fact, juice should never be put in a bottle and should be limited to less than 4 ounces per day.

Before they have teeth, infants should have their mouth cleaned after feedings with a wet, soft washcloth. Once teeth erupt, children should have their teeth brushed twice a day. Children under 3 years of age should brush with a smear of fluoridated toothpaste equal in size to a grain of rice. Children older than 3 years should use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste containing fluoride. Also, talk to your dentist or health care provider about fluoride supplements.

Dr. Blodgett is a pediatrician at Spectrum Health Big Rapids Family Medicine who recently joined Spectrum Health after caring for children for the past 22 years in the Detroit area. He is currently accepting new patients. To schedule an appointment with him, call (231) 796-3200.