Los Angeles, CA — Southern California’s First 5 Commissions are tackling the health care needs of poor children one tooth at a time. According to an independently produced research report, local First 5 commissions have spent some $21 million and made quality oral health care available to one out of every 11 children age 5 and under in the eight Southern California counties.

Because the problem is so critical in Southern California counties, First 5 Commissions began a major effort in 2004 to combat tooth decay, the most prevalent unmet health care need among children from low-income families. Over the last 5 years, the regional First 5 Commissions have provided oral health services to more than 248,000 children.

Tooth decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease and is reported to be the most frequent reason children miss school and although there have been improvements within the last generation, poor children suffer twice as much as more affluent youngsters.

“It is unnecessary and all the more unfortunate that any child experiences pain and suffering as a result of dental disease that has not been treated or that could have been prevented,” said Dr. Steven Uranga McKane, clinical director of The Children’s Dental Center of Greater Los Angeles.
Dentists also realize that many young children see doctors numerous times before they ever recline in a dental chair. Although a lot of parents wait until their child is age 3 or 4 before they have a first dental visit, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that that children see a dentist by their first birthday. For more information on free dental screenings for youngsters 5 and under visit: www.readysetgrowla.org/oralhealth.

What is the best way to take care of a young child’s teeth?

Birth to 12 months – Good dental habits should begin before the first tooth appears. After feedings, gently brush your baby’s gums using water on a baby toothbrush that has soft bristles. Or wipe them with a clean washcloth. Schedule your baby’s well-child visits. During these visits your child’s doctor will check your baby’s mouth.
12 to 24 months – Brush! Brush your child’s teeth two times a day using water on a baby toothbrush that has soft bristles. The best times are after breakfast and before bed. Limit juice. Make sure your child doesn’t drink more than one small cup of juice each day and only at mealtimes. Consult with your child’s dentist or doctor about sucking habits. Sucking too strongly on a pacifier, a thumb, or fingers can affect the shape of the mouth; how the top and bottom teeth line up. Schedule a dental checkup. Take your child for a dental checkup if he has not had one.