5 Ways To Celebrate National Children’s Dental Health Month
This February, the American Dental Association and dental care clinics and organizations across the U.S. are celebrating the National Children’s Dental Health Month. This campaign aims to raise awareness of the importance of oral health. It is the perfect time to encourage proper brushing and establishing good habits. Sometimes even adults take for granted the benefits of having healthy choppers. However, it is extremely important to inform children and reinforce the message regularly.
“Brush and clean in between to build a healthy smile,” is the slogan for this year’s celebration. This month-long national health observance brings together thousands of dedicated professionals, educators, and healthcare providers to promote good oral hygiene to children, their caregivers, teachers, and many others.
How Did It Start?
This dental health event started with a one-day observance in Cleveland, Ohio and a one-week celebration in Akron, Ohio around February 1941. Since then, the concept has grown from a two-city event into a nationwide program. The ADA sponsored the first national event of Children’s Dental Health Day on February 8, 1949. A decade later and it has become a weeklong event, and in 1981, the program was extended into the month-long campaign we know today.
National Children’s Dental Health Month messages reach millions of people across the country. Local observances often include coloring, poster, and essay contests, free dental screenings, health fairs, classroom presentations, museum exhibits, and dental office tours. The habits and attitudes established at an early age are critical in maintaining good oral health throughout life.
Impact Of Poor Oral Health On School Attendance and Performance
Many cavities go untreated. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 42 percent of children ages two to 11 have cavities. Not only can cavities affect teeth, but also the child’s self-esteem, overall health, and academic performance.
Parents and teachers have a role to play in reminding students of the benefits of taking care of their teeth. Research shows that American students miss 51 million hours of school a year because of oral health problems. When they are absent in school, they also miss out on learning the essential skills and knowledge they need for their future. Studies reveal that students who experience recent oral pain have considerably lower grade point averages than those who have not.
Over 80 percent of the cavities children get are on the chewing surface of their teeth. It is easy to get dental sealants to protect against decay, but only 18.5 percent of children have at least one sealed permanent tooth. Consult your pediatric dentist to see if dental sealants are a good option for your child.
About Tooth Decay
Tooth decay is the most common of chronic diseases among children. It is the damage to a tooth caused by plaque, a thin film of bacteria that sticks to the teeth. Brushing and flossing help remove plaque from the teeth, preventing it from building up and hardening into tartar. But when left to stay around the teeth for long, bacteria in the mouth will use the sugars in food to make acids. If the mouth is not rinsed, these acids can cause gum disease and tooth decay.
Any part of the teeth can decay, from the chewing surface all the way to the roots below the gum line. This can destroy the inner layer (dentin) and outer layer (enamel) of your child’s teeth. The deeper the decay, the worse the damage.
When left untreated, this decay will only get worse and can even lead to tooth loss. It’s crucial to take your child to the dentist regularly. The small holes you see in your child’s teeth are cavities and the dentist can help repair them. He or she will remove the decay and fill the hole. If the tooth has deeper decay, more treatment may be required.
Ways To Protect Children’s Oral Health
- Buy New Toothbrushes
Frayed bristles decrease the effectiveness of a toothbrush, that’s why the ADA advises replacing it every three to four months. If the toothbrushes your family use have been around for some time, take this opportunity to grab new ones. Let your kids pick one with their favorite color or character. You can also let them choose a flavor of toothpaste that they’ll like to use. This will get them excited about their oral hygiene routine.
- Do A Brushing Checkup
If your kids are used to brushing their teeth by themselves already, take a moment this month to supervise them and correct their routine. You might be surprised to see that one child brushes with only water and skips the floss altogether. By taking the time to check their habits, you can find which steps your kids are missing and instruct them the right way to take care of their teeth and gums.
- Color A Chart
The ADA offers coloring pages and activities on their website for this month’s celebration. Choose a chart-based coloring page and let your kids customize a reminder that you can hang in the bathroom. Knowing that they made it will motivate them to follow the good oral habits they learned. If they are able to stick with their routine for a week, give them a reward, such as a fun outing.
- Show Plaque
Kids may not understand why it’s so important to brush when they haven’t experienced having a painful toothache caused by cavities. Reveal plaque on the teeth using a video or picture online. Then, look in a mirror together and point out the areas where bacteria are likely to hide and instruct them to brush there.
- Drink Enough Water
Water washes sugar away. After eating, rinsing with water will remove leftover particles between the teeth. Drinking water will also increase saliva production and help the mouth fight off plaque.
Many oral diseases in children are preventable. As we commemorate National Children’s Dental Health Month, make sure that your kids appreciate the benefits of having a beautiful and healthy smile. Teach them the ways of proper oral hygiene and see them take these habits into adulthood.