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For Release: Feb.7, 2011 - Pamela Williams, Office of Communications - (405) 271-5601

Good Dental Health Starts Early in Life
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) joins with the American Dental Association (ADA) every year to promote the importance of dental health for children during February, which is National Children’s Dental Health Month. Parents and caregivers can help children get an early start in learning how to take care of their teeth and gums. The slogans for this year’s observance are “A Healthy Smile? It’s Easy to Find!” and “Healthy Smiles Look Good Up Close.”

“Remember, children learn their oral habits from you.  As a parent or caregiver, be a good example, and your children will forever thank you with a healthy smile,”said Dr. Jana Winfree, chief, OSDH Dental Health Service.

The OSDH and ADA offer the following dental health tips for parents or caregivers:

  • Do not feed a baby by “propping” the bottle.  Babies should be weaned from the bottle by age 1.
  • Limit the use of sippy cups.  Sippy cups function in the same way bottles do – the child must suck to receive content.  Encourage your toddler to learn to actually sip by using a cup without a valve.
  • Both bottles and sippy cups can contribute to baby bottle tooth decay if the child is allowed free access to such devices.  If the child continuously bathes his teeth in milk, juice, or other sugary liquids, this can cause early childhood cavities. 
  • Start brushing as soon as the first tooth erupts.  You can just use a soft cloth to clean baby’s teeth, and there are special soft toothbrushes for small children.
  • Brush your child’s teeth daily until the child can be taught to do this alone.  A child normally develops manual dexterity to brush effectively during the early elementary school age.  Introduce flossing and monitor.  Continue to supervise children as they learn. 
  • Make sure your child gets the fluoride needed for decay-resistant teeth.  You may be able to determine if your city’s water system is fluoridated by visiting the “My Water’s Fluoride” Web site at http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/MWF/Index.asp or checking with your public water utility system.  A dentist or dental hygienist can apply topical fluoride twice a year.  Also, most toothpastes are fluoridated and there are many over-the-counter fluoride rinses available.  Just a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste is recommended.  For young children, care should be taken so they do not swallow toothpaste; a thin smear is plenty.
  • Take your child regularly to visit a dentist. Ask about sealants.  Sealants provide a protective barrier that covers the chewing surfaces of back teeth – especially first molars, which erupt at around age 7 or 8.
  • Your child should use a mouth guard when playing contact sports.  Coaches may help you with this.
  • Discourage tobacco use and oral piercings.
  • Encourage and provide proper nutrition. 
    • Sugary and acidic drinks should be limited.  Try diluting juices with water.  Water is the best drink for thirst and to sip throughout the day.
    • Sugary foods should be consumed with meals.  Saliva production increases during meals and helps neutralize acid production and rinse food particles from the mouth.
    • Limit between meals snacks.
    • If your kids chew gum, make it sugarless – chewing sugarless gum after eating can increase saliva flow and help wash out food and decay-producing acid.  Look for the sweetener xylitol in sugarless gum because it helps prevent cavities.

“Give Kids a Smile Day” and many events are being planned throughout the state this month. 

For more information, posters and educational resources, browse “About the Oklahoma Dental Association – Programs” at okda.org.

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