Institute Good Oral Health Habits
»Why it’s vital: According to a report released earlier this year by the National Center for Health Statistics, decay in baby teeth of children age 2 to 5 is on the rise: 28 percent of children in that age range have at least one cavity. Early dental exams every six months will not only prevent cavities today, but also help prevent the decay that can lead to malocclusion, which is the improper positioning of the teeth and jaw when your child is older. Begin brushing your child’s teeth once that first tooth appears.
By age 1, you should be brushing her teeth twice a day with a soft washcloth or soft toothbrush dipped in warm water; at age 2, introduce fl uoridated toothpaste. By age 4, toddlers can usually handle the brush themselves. The foods you choose will help prevent cavities as well: Replace sugar-laden snacks with healthier choices and serve 100 percent fruit juices to your toddler. “It all goes back to establishing good habits early in life,” maintains Csukas. “Teach them to care for their teeth now to help prevent not only decay, but bacteria and abscesses in the gums that may cause illness.”
Don’t Smoke (or Let Others Smoke) Around Your Child
»Why it’s vital: We know you’re aware of the health consequences for yourself, but did you know that secondhand smoke can affect your toddler’s breathing and may have longterm respiratory consequences like impaired lungs, chronic coughing and wheezing? Children of smokers visit the doctor more often for respiratory infections and wheezing episodes than nonsmokers’ kids. “Secondhand smoke causes more ear infections, more upper respiratory infections, more allergies and more asthma,” says Andrea McCoy, M.D., an associate professor of pediatrics at Temple University’s School of Medicine in Philadelphia. “It also sets a bad precedent since kids model their parents’ behavior.”