February is National Children’s Dental Health Month (NCDHM), a month-long health observance that brings together thousands of dedicated health care professionals to promote the benefits of good oral health for children.
This year’s NCDHM campaign slogan is “Choose Tap Water for a Sparkling Smile.” The Harford County Health Department Dental Program joins the Maryland Office of Oral Health (OOH) to encourage drinking tap water. More than 70 years of scientific research has consistently shown that fluoride prevents cavities. Getting fluoride onto the teeth by drinking fluoridated tap water and brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste is the simplest way to prevent cavities. The OOH offers a number of educational resources online as well as brochures and posters to educate children.
Low income and minority children, especially those of Hispanic background, are disproportionately affected by poor oral health and have a greater number of untreated cavities. According to the Maryland Oral Health Survey of School Children, 2011-2012, Hispanic children in Maryland are less likely to visit the dentist and more likely to lack dental insurance. To address these issues, the OOH and the Maryland Dental Action Coalition (MDAC) will be promoting the Coalition’s highly successful Dientes Sanos, Niños Sanos campaign this February and March. More information about this campaign is available on the web at: : http://www.dientessanosninossanos.org or www.healthyteethhealthykids.com.
“Tooth decay still is one of the most common chronic diseases of children, which is a shame because it’s preventable”, states Dawn Anthony, Dental Hygienist and Dental Outreach Coordinator for the Harford County Health Department Dental Program. “A healthy mouth is important for overall health and poor oral health in childhood can cause problems with eating, speaking, and learning. Cavities not only cause children pain but also can lead to more serious health problems. Attitudes and habits established at an early age are critical in maintaining good oral health throughout life. By participating in the annual celebration of National Children’s Dental Health Month, members of the dental profession, parents, teachers and others can help keep children’s smiles beautiful now and for years to come.”
Ms. Anthony offers the following tips for preventing tooth decay in children:
• Schedule a child’s first dental visit when his or her first tooth appears, or by the first birthday.
• Provide children with healthy snacks such as fruits and vegetables, and avoid sugary foods and
drinks. Give them tap water to drink between meals.
• Brush your child’s teeth with toothpaste that has fluoride twice a day as soon as the first tooth
appears. The amount of toothpaste that goes on the toothbrush depends on the child’s age. A smear
of toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice) should be used for children under the age of 3 and a
pea-size amount should be used for children 3 and older. Children need brushing supervision until
seven to eight years of age.
• Your drinking water can be tested to determine if the amount of fluoride it contains is too low to
prevent tooth decay. If so, speak to your dentist or physician about the need for fluoride treatment.
• Ask your dentist about dental sealants for your child’s permanent molar teeth. Dental sealants are
coatings that can be applied to the chewing surfaces of the molar teeth to prevent tooth decay.
Sealants should be applied as soon as the permanent molar teeth come in around the age of six for
the first set of molars, and then again around the age of twelve for the second set of molars.
The Health Department’s Dental Clinic, located at 2204 Hanson Road in the Edgewood Plaza
Shopping Center in Edgewood, provides dental care to children ages 1 – 20 who are enrolled in the Maryland
Children’s Health Program (MCHP) and to pregnant women on MCHP. This springtime, the facility celebrates
its ninth anniversary serving the oral health care needs of 8,734 children and pregnant women enrolled in the
Medical Assistance Program by providing general and preventive dental care including cleanings, oral
examinations, fluoride treatments, fillings and sealants. The Health Department also operates a Dental
Outreach Program that is supported by grants from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s
Office of Oral Health. The Outreach Program includes two school-based oral health programs in Harford
County Schools (a dental screening program for pre-K and kindergarten children and a dental sealant
program for 2nd and 3rd grade children) and a WIC-based dental screening program for pregnant women,
mothers and children at all three WIC sites located in Harford and Cecil counties.
Other websites that include oral health tips and resources are Healthy Teeth, Healthy Kids (at
www.healthyteethhealthykids.org), the American Dental Association (at www.mouthhealthy.org or
www.mouthhealthykids.org ), and the National Maternal & Child Oral Health Resource Center (at
www.mchoralhealth.org) and the Maryland Office of Oral Health (http://phpa.dhmh.maryland.gov/oralhealth).
More information about the Harford County Health Department Dental Clinic’s services is available at
www.harfordcountyhealth.com or by calling 443-922-7670.