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FOR RELEASE: February 21, 2002
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Smile … February is National Children's Dental Health Month

The theme of this month's National Children's Dental Health Month observance, "Don't Let Your Smile Become Extinct!" emphasizes the focus on local public health education to help keep children's smiles beautiful now and for years to come.

State and local dental societies, dental alliances, and county health departments use the month of February to spend extra time educating parents that the attitudes and habits regarding oral health, formed by children at an early age, are critical in maintaining good oral health and a beautiful smile.

"Part of the prevention focus is explaining the methods dentists use to prevent tooth decay," said Dr. Michael Morgan, chief of the state health department's Dental Service. One such method is the use of dental sealants, plastic material that the dentist applies to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. The sealant forms a barrier that protects teeth from a sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth called plaque. The bacteria in plaque use sugar and starch in food as a source of energy and convert this food into harmful acids that attack teeth and may cause cavities.

Pits and fissures are especially difficult to clean because toothbrush bristles cannot reach into those depressions and grooves to remove food and plaque. Without the protection of sealants, cavities can form in the pit and fissure areas. Also, permanent molars are extremely susceptible to this form of tooth decay.

"Applying dental sealants takes only a few minutes for each tooth and they usually last several years before a reapplication is needed. They are a good investment in maintaining a healthy smile," said Morgan. He also recommended regular dental checkups, at least annually.

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