Washington State’s recently released comprehensive new guidelines on childhood development reinforce that good oral health is an integral part of a child’s overall health and development.
The Early Learning and Development Guidelines are an easy-to-use resource for parents and caregivers that describe key milestones for children from birth through third grade and ways to support healthy development.
The new guidelines are full of tips and strategies to help parents protect their children’s oral health, including swabbing a newborn’s gums, taking a child to the dentist by one year of age, flossing and cooperative tooth-brushing during the toddler years.
The guidelines highlight the connection between oral health and social, cognitive and academic development. . Untreated dental disease can cause intense pain that affects a child’s ability to pay attention, sit still in class and get enough sleep.
Child with dental disease can also:
- Struggle to form words correctly because of damaged or missing teeth.
- Withdraw from social situations negatively affecting their social and emotional development.
- Fail to get proper nutrition because it is painful to chew and swallow.
- Develop ear infections, sinus infections and abscesses that are expensive to treat.
- Miss more school than other students.
Unfortunately, nearly 40 percent of children in Washington begin kindergarten having experienced tooth decay. In 2010, Medicaid spent more than $87 million treating Washington children for dental disease.
The good news is that dental decay is preventable. The new Early Learning and Development Guidelines are a great place for families and caregivers to learn how to protect children’s oral health starting at birth. Early intervention helps to ensure that children have a lifetime of good oral health. Check out all the tips and advice in the guidelines under the Health Kids – Healthy Communities.
Oral Health Impacts School Readiness, OralHealthWatch.org.