Children’s Dental Health Month

A dental health provider from Mosier Troop Medical Clinic 2 shows a child how to properly brush his teeth during a previous National Children’s Dental Health Month presentation at one of the installation child development centers. Similar activities will be taking place at the CDCs this year.

Children’s Dental Health Month is observed each February, giving the nation an opportunity to discuss and promote good oral hygiene habits that start at an early age and continue through adulthood.

In acknowledgement of the observance, the dental providers at Fort Lee will visit each of the child development centers here and conduct fun, interactive oral care demonstrations using puppets to show youngsters how to properly brush and floss.

The American Dental Association’s slogan for the 2020 campaign is “Fluoride in water prevents cavities! Get it from the tap!” According to a study by the Institute of Medicine, 20 percent of children in the U.S. do not drink a single drop of tap or bottled water on a daily or weekly basis. Simply using toothpaste containing fluoride isn’t enough, read another report on Correctly treated drinking water can bathe the teeth in fluoride throughout the day, which is proven to deter the formation of cavities.

What else can parents do to ensure their child has good dental health?

Thoughtful food choices are of great benefit. Fresh fruits and vegetables are promoters of good oral hygiene, whereas processed/packaged foods and soft drinks can be detrimental. More often than not, it’s the non-nutritional foods that are conveniently packed, cheaper and attractive because they’re quick and easy to prepare. Plus, marketing firms have figured out ways to attract consumers by dressing up food packaging with bright colors or a child’s favorite television character.

Generally, the first two ingredients in anything a child picks out for themselves are corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup – both code words for sugar. Parents need to remember that they have the ultimate say in what their children are eating.

An even more notorious promoter of cavities is sugar-laden beverages. The average teenage boy in the U.S. consumes 81 gallons of soft drinks each year. That’s almost three 2-liter bottles each week. Typical soft drinks are high in both acidity and sugar content and, therefore, a double-edge sword from a dental health standpoint.

Even parents who minimize their children’s soft-drink intake are not off the hook. Many sports drinks and juices contain just as much sugar and acid as those soft drinks and can be disguised as good sources of nourishment or rehydration.

The last variable is how often these “sugar exposures” occur. Even if the overall consumption is low in volume, a child who frequently sips on sugary drinks or eats starchy snacks has greater risk of cavities. This “grazing” habit can have a real adverse effect on oral health and overall fitness in the long run.

Let’s face it, though, kids are finicky eaters and many parents contend themselves with the fact they’re happy and not constantly engaged in a battle of “this is icky, the wrong color and looks nothing like a chicken nugget.” So, the American Dental Association recommends the following tips to reduce the harmful effects of tooth decay:

• Sugary foods and drinks should be consumed with meals. Saliva production increases while eating and helps neutralize acid production as food particles are being rinsed from the mouth.

• Limit unhealthy between-meal snacks. Have apples, carrots or other fruits/vegetables cut up and ready to grab in the fridge.

• Read nutrition labels when shopping. If any of the first three ingredients is some form of sugar, be wary of the health benefits. Don’t be fooled by words like “organic” and “natural.”

• If your kids chew gum, make it sugarless. The benefit to chewing sugarless gum is increased saliva flow that helps wash out food and decay-producing acid.

• Monitor beverage consumption. Instead of soft drinks, sports drinks and juice all day, children should choose water and low-fat milk.

• Help your children develop good brushing and flossing habits.

• Schedule regular dental visits.

The final tip is to set good household habits. Parents who join in with their kids as they’re eating healthy, practicing good dental hygiene and getting regular checkups will be more successful in making it a pleasant experience with positive results. Children look up to adults, so it’s up to them to lay the foundation now for a lifetime of healthy eating habits and proper oral health.