During the month of February, Time Warner Cable News is committed to informing our viewers of the sometimes alarming trends facing our kids' health as well as provide helpful tips for busy parents.  Get more information on Fit Kids February, including the Fit Kids Challenge, healthy shopping suggestions and ways you can get involved to help make you and your children healthier! 

For some parents, getting their kids to take care of their teeth is like pulling teeth, but it’s important.  Proper oral hygiene at a young age sets the stage for healthy habits.

 “The focus right now is on preventing cavities, so having good habits from the beginning is the best thing you can do,“ says Dr. Laurence Hyacinthe of Mount Sinai Hospital.

We asked Dr. Hyacinthe, or Dr. Laurie as she’s known to her patients, to help outline what parents should know about maintaining proper oral care for kids. First, she says once that first tooth erupts, you need to start brushing, either with a soft toothbrush or even a cloth. But what about toothpaste?

“As per the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, we are now recommending that all children, as soon as they get their first tooth, start using fluoride toothpaste. The important thing is limiting the amount of toothpaste they use, but just using a smear where you just wipe the toothpaste just on top of the bristles and that’s just enough,” syas Dr. Hyacinthe.

Any parent will tell you that getting a young child to sit still for two minutes isn’t easy, but it is important to make brushing part of the daily routine. So make it fun. You could get a timer or sing a song. The birthday song two times is the exact amount of time you need to get those teeth clean.

And as they get older, you should try to incorporate flossing as well.  Many parents wonder when a child should first see the dentist.

“By the age of one, we want to have the child come to see the dental office so that we are able to examine the teeth, give the recommendations so that we can avoid dental cavities from happening and to assess if there is anything to be concerned about at that point,” says Hyacinthe.

Some dentists may recommend using sealants, which is a resin that is put on the molars to help prevent cavities. Dr. Laurie says the key to prevention is diet.

 “It’s not just the candy we need to be concerned about.  It is the beverages: juice, chocolate milk, strawberry milk, soda as well as anything that has a lot of sugar. So if your child is prone to cavities, we really need to look into their diet to see how you can limit their sugar consumption,” she says.

Not only is limiting sugar consumption good for oral health, it also benefits overall health.