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FOR RELEASE: February 6, 2003
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
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 importance of dental care and 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 both children and parents about the importance of good oral health. Parents also need to know that the attitudes and habits regarding oral health, which are formed by children at an early age, are critical in maintaining good oral health and a beautiful smile for a lifetime.

“Part of the prevention focus is explaining the methods dentists use to prevent tooth decay,” said Dr. Michael Morgan, chief of the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s Dental Health 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 called plaque that forms on teeth. 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 on the chewing surfaces of back teeth, also called premolar and molar teeth, 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.

“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 annual dental checkups, daily brushing and flossing, and making sure children receive needed dental care.

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