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For Release: February 3, 2009
Contact: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications

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

Attitudes and habits regarding oral health are formed by children at an early age and are critical to maintaining a beautiful healthy smile for life. For that reason, each year the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) joins with the American Dental Association (ADA) to promote the importance of dental health for children as part of National Children’s Dental Health Month. The theme for this year’s campaign is “Turn Up Your Smile Power!”

The ADA campaign features the adventures of Brushetta (banishes tooth decay with brushing action), Nutriboy (protects teeth with nutritious food & drinks), and The Flossinator (removes food & germs with the power of floss). The OSDH encourages teachers, caretakers or parents to use the ADA free online resources located at http://www.ada.org/prof/events/featured/ncdhm.asp.

“Give Kids a Smile Day” will be observed Friday, Feb. 6. On this day, many dentists across Oklahoma will be offering free dental care and education for underserved children. The Oklahoma Dental Association will list the names of the volunteer dentists in every hometown newspaper.

The ADA and OSDH 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 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 a little 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 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.

· 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 1st molars, which erupt at around age seven or eight.

· 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.

          o Sugary and acidic drinks should be limited. Water is the best drink for thirst and to sip throughout the day.

          o Sugary foods should be consumed with meals. Saliva production increases during meals and helps neutralize acid production and rinse food particles from the mouth.

          o Limit between meals snacks.

          o 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.

Remember, children learn their oral habits from you. As a parent or caregiver, be a good example, and your children will forever thank you for Turning Up Their Smile Power!

For more information about children’s dental health, contact the OSDH Dental Health Service at 405/271-5502.



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