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For Release: January 26, 2012 - 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 and local dental health events 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 slogan for this year’s observance is, “Rock Your Smile!”

“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. 
  • Limit the use of sippy cups.  Sippy cups function in the same way bottles do – the child must suck to drink. Encourage toddlers to learn to sip by using a cup without a valve.
  • Both bottles and sippy cups can contribute to 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 skills to brush during the early elementary school age.  Introduce flossing and continue to supervise children as they learn. 
  • Make sure your child gets the fluoride needed for decay-resistant teeth. Check your city’s water system for fluoridation by visiting the “My Water’s Fluoride” website at http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/MWF/Index.asp or check with your public water utility.  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; consider not using toothpaste for children under age 2, or use a very thin smear.
  • Take your child regularly to visit a dentist. Ask about sealants, which provide a protective barrier that covers the chewing surfaces of back teeth – especially first molars.
  • Discuss with the coach about your child using a mouth guard during contact sports. 
  • 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, and rinse food particles from the mouth.
    • Limit between meal 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. 

For more information about Children’s Dental Health Month and events planned during February, or for posters, fun activity sheets, and educational resources, browse the American Dental Association website at http://www.ada.org/5578.aspx.   

Finally, please note that the third Oklahoma Mission of Mercy (OkMOM) free dental clinic will be held Feb. 3-4, 2012, first come, first served, at the SE Expo Center in McAlester. This two-day clinic is designed to meet the critical needs of dental patients of all ages by providing free dental care to as many adults and children as time, volunteers and supplies will allow.

There are more than 50 sponsors for the OkMOM event. Major sponsors include the Oklahoma Dental Association, the Oklahoma Dental Foundation, Delta Dental of Oklahoma Oral Health Foundation, and the Oklahoma State Department of Health.  Local contributors include the Pittsburg County Health Department, McAlester Regional Hospital, First National Bank and Trust of McAlester, and local eateries that are supplying food and beverages for the event.  More than 1,200 volunteers have signed up to work at the OkMOM this year. To find out more, including photos and frequently asked questions, visit http://www.okmom.org/.

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