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FOR RELEASE: January 27, 2005
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Smile...February is National Children’s Dental Health Month

The theme of this year’s National Children’s Dental Health Month observance, “A Healthy Smile is Always in Style,” emphasizes the importance of dental care and 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. Public health officials said attitudes and habits regarding oral health formed by children at an early age are critical to maintaining a good smile and good health for a lifetime.

Data from a recent oral health needs assessment of Oklahoma third grade children, conducted by the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) and the University of Oklahoma Colleges of Dentistry and Public Health, showed the following dental health status results:

  • 69.4 percent of children have dental caries experience.
  • 40.2 percent of children have untreated decay.
  • 37.2 percent of children have dental sealants on at least one permanent molar tooth.
  • On average, each third grade child has approximately 2.8 teeth that are decayed or have been decayed.

"Explaining the methods dentists use to prevent tooth decay is part of the prevention focus during this special month,” said Dr. Michael Morgan, chief of the OSDH Dental Health Service. One such method is the use of dental sealants, a protective material the dentist applies to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. The sealant forms a barrier that shields 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 surfaces of back 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 mouth,” said Morgan. He also recommended annual dental checkups, daily brushing and flossing, and making sure children receive needed dental care.

Dental health tips for parents and caregivers:

  • Take your child to see the dentist every six months, beginning by the child’s first birthday.
  • Put only water in a child’s naptime or bedtime bottle.
  • Start brushing as soon as the first tooth erupts.
  • Begin flossing when two teeth begin to touch.
  • Brush and floss your child’s teeth daily until the child can be taught to do this alone. (A child normally develops manual dexterity to brush and floss by themselves about the third grade.)
  • Make sure your child gets the fluoride needed for decay-resistant teeth. Ask your physician or dentist how this should be done.
  • Ask about dental sealants. A sealant is a protective barrier that shields the chewing surfaces of back teeth against tooth decay.
  • Your child should use a mouth guard (mouth protector) when playing contact sports.
  • Make sure your child does not use any form of tobacco.
  • Your child should not participate in tongue or lip piercing.

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