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National Children's Dental Health Month begins

ANDREWS AFB, Md. -- February is National Children's Dental Health Month. The 79th Dental Squadron is celebrating the month by increasing awareness to parents and children of the importance of oral health with a strong emphasis on prevention through good home care and routine dental visits. 

Conveying the importance of oral health early in a child's life will pay lifelong dividends. Many studies have shown children develop their habits and personalities by emulating their parents. If parents want to help their children in developing good lifelong habits in preventing dental cavities, they should start by setting an example. Good dental care sends a positive message that oral health is something to be valued. Be creative and make brushing a fun event. Parents can brush along with their children and have them choose their own toothbrush.

Tip 1 -- Parents need to take care of their teeth, brush with their children and make it a fun activity.

Tip 2 -- A child's first visit to the dentist should be around their first birthday. Early exposure to the dental office will allow children to have a much more pleasant experience at future visits.

Tip 3 -- Once a child is preschool-age, start using fluoride toothpaste, using only a pea-sized amount.

Tip 4 -- Children who eat a lot of sugary foods like cookies and candies or drink sodas and other sweetened drinks are more likely to develop cavities.

Tip 5 -- Teeth-friendly snacks include: Fruits, vegetables, cheese, whole-wheat crackers and sugar-free gum.

Tip 6 -- Parents should never put a baby to bed with a bottle unless it contains only water.

Tip 7 -- Wipe baby's gums with a clean damp cloth after feeding them. This minimizes plaque and bacteria that can harm erupting teeth. Baby's lower front teeth start erupting around 6 to 8 months.

Tip 8 -- Don't let the words ''baby tooth" mislead people to think they're not important. They act as natural tooth maintainers for their adult teeth. If the child develops nonrestorable cavities on their baby teeth, their adult tooth alignment may result in crowding.

Tip 9 -- Pregnant women should consume adequate amounts of dairy products, which are an excellent source of calcium -- they are the building blocks for healthy teeth and bones.

Tip 10 -- Consider dental sealants. They are tooth-colored liquids that are painted onto the chewing surfaces of the back adult teeth that harden into a white plastic-like barrier that typically lasts several years. This coating protects the grooves and depressions (where food gets trapped) of the teeth from decay.

To help children protect their teeth and gums and greatly reduce their risk of getting cavities, teach them to follow these simple steps recommended by the American Dental Association:

ï Brush twice a day with an ADA - approved fluoride toothpaste to remove dental plaque, the sticky film consisting of germs on teeth that are the primary cause of tooth decay.

ï Floss daily to remove plaque from between teeth and under the gum line, before it can harden into tartar, which is a hardened form of dental plaque. Once tartar has formed, it can only be removed by a dental professional. Flossing helps keep the tooth and gum areas clean where toothbrushes can not.

ï Eat a well-balanced diet that limits sugary foods, which produces dental plaque acids that also promote tooth decay. When eating sugary foods, try to eat them with meals instead of as a snack. The extra saliva produced during meals helps rinse food from the mouth.

ï Make sure that children's drinking water contains fluoride. If the water supply does not contain fluoride, consult with a dentist or pediatrician for a possible fluoride supplement prescription.

ï Take children to the dentist for a routine annual dental checkup.

Members of the 79 DS will host a dental coloring contest that will be held for children ages 3 to 6 at the Andrews Base Exchange 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Colored posters must be turned into the Andrews Dental Clinic by Feb. 23 for judging. Prizes and gifts will be awarded for first, second and third place finalists. Winners of the coloring contest will be announced and a complimentary movie will be shown at the base theater 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 24.

Sponsors are encouraged to enroll in the TRICARE Dental Program to help ensure children's dental needs are met on a regular basis. For more information about the program or to enroll, go to http:⁄⁄www.UCCI.com.

For more information about children's dental health and the activities scheduled in February, please call the Dental Clinic at 240-857-5029.
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