Madison dentists remind parents that tooth decay is the most common, chronic childhood disease

February is National Children's Dental Health month

MADISON, Wis. — For people of all ages, just the thought of getting in the dentist chair can be nerve-racking. That anxiety is even worse for kids.

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month and the perfect time for a conversation about how important dental health care is for Wisconsin families.

Tooth decay is the number one most common, chronic childhood disease in the country.

That’s five times more common than asthma. If left untreated, dental problems can hurt more than children’s mouths. Your son or daughter’s physical and social development, as well as his or her performance in school, can also be affected. According to, kids with dental pain are “significantly more likely to sleep poorly, miss school, and are less likely to finish their homework.”

Sugar is often the cavity culprit.

“Every time you add some sugars to the equation, the bacteria in your mouth creates a little bit of acid,” explained Dr. Tim Kinzel, a member of the Wisconsin Dental Association. “That, in turn, creates a cavity. So if you think of it as a frequency thing, the more you eat or drink something, the more acid that’s created. A little bit of acid, a little bit of acid, and all of a sudden, you have a cavity.” Of course, Kinzel recommends limiting sugar. He also suggests confining any juice or snacks parents give their kids to one time each day, instead of spreading them out.

Parents might be surprised to learn that getting their kid’s teeth checked is easier and less expensive than they think.

Under Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), essential health care services like preventative care and dental health are covered. Dental coverage includes access to regular check-ups, x-rays, fluoride treatments, dental sealants, fillings, and more. In general, kids and teens in a family of four earning up to $50,000/year, and in some places more, will qualify for Medicaid and CHIP. Kids and teens up to age 19 can enroll.

Pediatric dentists in the Madison area say they see kids come in with cavities every day, and those can happen before kids celebrate their first birthday.

Dentists say parents should take their kids in for their first appointment within six months of their first tooth coming in. The first visit is usually short and doesn’t include a lot of treatment.

In the meantime, dental health starts at home.

Here are a few things parents can do to help their children’s oral health:

  1. Turn on your kid’s favorite song while they brush. Most songs are two or three minutes long, which is how long kids should brush.
  2. When you’re shopping for toothpaste, local dentists recommend one with fluoride in it.
  3.  Parents should set a good example. Brush and floss every day, twice a day