Senator Breslin Urges Parents To Start Early: Teach Children Proper Oral Hygiene

Neil D. Breslin

February 13, 2007

In recognition of Children's Dental Health Month, observed each February, State Senator Neil D. Breslin (D-Albany) today said one of the best ways New York parents can educate their children about good oral health care is to familiarize themselves with the fundamentals of pediatric dentistry.

"While it's important to develop good oral health habits in children, it's just as important to understand and break bad habits, such as thumb sucking or swallowing large amounts of toothpaste, which can lead to the ingestion of too much fluoride," Senator Breslin said. "Proper oral hygiene practices should begin on day one."

Brushing children's teeth twice a day, flossing daily, and regular dental check ups will put your child on the path to good oral health. In infancy, you can help your child get a head start by wiping their gums after each feeding and, later on, cleaning baby teeth with a soft cloth. While children generally need assistance or supervision until age seven or eight, parents can begin teaching them brushing and flossing techniques at age two or three.

According to the American Dental Association, dental cavities, the most common chronic disease of childhood, affects 50 percent of children by middle childhood. Chronic gum disease, or gingivitis, is also common. Fortunately, most oral diseases can be prevented.

Senator Breslin noted there are many fun, free, educational activities that parents can use to help teach children the basics about dental health. "Puzzles, games, crafts and charts encourage them to develop good oral hygiene habits at an early age. Children love to have fun while they're learning."

Nutrition also plays a vital role in oral health, the Albany lawmaker added. Eating nutritional snacks and limiting the amount of sugary drinks will help prevent dental decay and encourage a healthy lifestyle.

During Children's Dental Health Month, the New York State Dental Association will once again sponsor ‘Keeping Smiles Brighter,’ a statewide contest to encourage children in preschool to 12th grade to design a T-shirt for kids that shares a message about good dental care. The prize for each of seven age-defined categories is $100. Entries are due March 2. For more information, visit the New York State Dental Association at

"The dentist's office might seem like a frightening place, but parents can reduce their child's fear by not using words like "hurt" or "pain" when discussing an upcoming appointment," Senator Breslin said.

"Set a good example for your children by brushing, flossing, eating healthy foods and scheduling regular dental checkups for yourself," Senator Breslin concluded. "Then regularly remind them about the lifelong benefits of good oral health. After all, the road to maintaining a healthy smile for a lifetime begins at an early age."