Untreated cavities in children are one of the most common chronic childhood diseases in the U.S. When left untreated, cavities can lead to serious health issues, including pain and infections that affect eating, speaking and learning. There’s a painful socioeconomic reality as well. Children from low-income families are twice as likely to have cavities compared with children from higher-income homes, and the pandemic has amplified these risks for both children and parents. 
Recent surveys found more than half of Americans have put off dental visits due to COVID-19, and a third of parents said the COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult to get dental care for their children.  Many adults developed harmful habits — 31% said they were snacking more on sweets, 21% admitted to not brushing their teeth in the morning and 23% said they aren’t flossing. Bad habits can take root and develop in children at an early age, making it all the more vital for parents to set an example with a healthy routine.
The good news is that there simple steps we can take to prevent childhood cavities. Watch this video from Dr. Deborah Fuller, national dental director at Cigna, and take a moment to learn these five simple tips and habits to incorporate into your child’s routine.
- Don’t forget to book dental check-ups. Two dental check-ups are recommended per year to help keep your child’s mouth stay healthy and catch any problems or warning signs early on.
- Make sure your child is brushing their teeth twice a day for at least two minutes. There are fun mobile apps and battery toothbrushes with characters to make it more exciting. Until your child is old enough to tie their shoes by themselves, help your child brush to make sure they are doing a good job.
- Use a toothpaste that contains fluoride. Your dentist can help you choose the right one and tell you how much to use depending on your child’s age.
- Reduce sugars. Eating or drinking sugary food creates acid that can lead to tooth decay. If your child does have something sugary, have them drink water afterwards. And, using a straw for sugary drinks is also helpful. It’s best to give them water to drink, especially between meals.
- Encourage healthy snacks. Nutrition plays a huge role in oral health. Healthy snacks include cheese sticks, nuts, low-sugar yogurts, veggies and apples.
“Small changes will have a huge overall impact and are good habits for children to learn and practice, earlier rather than later,” said Dr. Fuller. “These habits go beyond just oral health. Kids who get dental checkups have increased self-confidence, fewer missed schools day, fewer ER and hospital visits, and lower dental costs. A healthy mouth helps children thrive.”
Additionally, to help make a direct impact in the communities we serve, Cigna partnered with Blessings in a Backpack in Boston during Children’s Dental Health Month this February to provide children with dental health tips and goodie bags filled with dental hygiene supplies – including a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss and more. As part of this partnership, the Cigna Foundation sponsored 1,536 backpacks filled with mouth-healthy, satisfying and nutritional food, helping to feed more than 380 children. Additionally, Cigna partnered with Belmont Hills Elementary School outside of Atlanta and the Emmanuel Center in Memphis, Tenn. Combined, Cigna provided over 600 goodie bags filled with dental hygiene supplies to children in Georgia and Tennessee.
For more information on dental health, visit www.cigna.com/dental.