February 2011 Health Beat

Karen’s Kolumn is written by Karen Dolley our local area public health nurse… we appreciate her knowledge and her willingness to share!

A Healthy Smile? It’s Easy to Find! Remember to Brush and Floss Every Day! February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. The aim is to raise awareness about the importance of oral health and to focus on efforts to improve the oral health of all children. It is an annual observance sponsored by the American Dental Association. Founded in 1859, the American Dental Association is the oldest and largest national dental society in the world. It is a leading source of oral health related information.

 More than forty percent of children will have tooth decay before the age of five. According to the United states Surgeon General, tooth decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease. It is five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever. It is very important to develop good habits like brushing and flossing at an early age and to schedule regular dental visits to promote a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums. Cavities happen when starchy and sugary foods stay on and between the teeth. Plaque with bacteria stick there too. The longer the bacteria stay there, the greater the chance is for tooth decay. Left untreated, dental decay can cause serious health problems and life threatening infections. A report from the surgeon General released in May, 2000, highlights the associations between chronic oral infections and diabetes, osteoporosis, heart and lung conditions, and certain adverse pregnancy outcomes.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentists recommends a dental visit when the first tooth appears. Baby teeth are vulnerable to tooth decay and are needed for proper speech development and nutrition. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentists recommends cleaning infant mouths and gums regularly with a soft infant toothbrush or a cloth and warm water. Children older than six months need fluoride supplements if their drinking water does not contain enough fluoride. Fluoride supplementation has been shown to reduce tooth decay by as much as fifty percent. Babies should be weaned from bottles by twelve to fourteen months of age. Baby teeth should be brushed at least twice a day with a toothbrush made for small children and using a very small amount of toothpaste with fluoride in it. Flossing should begin when two teeth appear next to each other. Floss every day. Providing a healthy diet and minimizing sweets is also very important. Talk to your child’s dentist about dental sealants which protect teeth from decay.  

For more information, visit www.ada.org, www.aap.org/oralhealth, or www.cdc.gov/OralHealth.  And don’t forget to smile!

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