In light of National Children’s Dental Health Month, observed every
February, thousands of public health organizations take the opportunity to promote the importance of
children’s oral health. This year, the Harford County Health Department dental program has something to
The health department’s dental program is proud to announce a new pilot school program beginning this
month, in partnership with Harford County Public Schools and Healthy Harford. The program will be
implemented with pre-kindergarten students at Hall’s Cross Roads Elementary School. Children will be
instructed on proper tooth brushing technique and under the supervision of their teacher, will brush their
teeth for two minutes each day in the classroom.
“By encouraging children to brush at school each day, we reinforce good habits that can last a lifetime for
children. It is our hope that this program will expand to additional classes in the future” said Dawn
Anthony, Dental Hygienist and Dental Outreach Coordinator for the Harford County Health Department.
The pilot program aligns with the 2018 National Children’s Dental Health Month theme, Brush your teeth
with fluoride toothpaste and clean between your teeth for a healthy smile.
“Tooth decay is preventable” states Anthony. “A healthy mouth is important for overall health and poor
oral health in childhood can cause pain and may also lead to more serious health problems. Good dental
hygiene and nutritional habits established at an early age are critical to maintaining a healthy mouth.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tooth decay is the single most common
chronic disease among U.S. children. Left untreated, tooth decay can cause pain and infections as well
as problems eating, speaking, and learning. Tooth decay is responsible for more than 51 million lost
school hours each year. In the U.S., more than 16 million children go each year without seeing a dentist.
Tips to prevent tooth decay in your children include:
- Schedule your child’s first dental visit when his/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. Drink tap water between meals.
Once teeth come in, begin brushing your child’s teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice a day. A ricesize
amount of toothpaste should be used for children under age 3 and a pea-size amount should be used for children age 3 and older. Fluoride prevents cavities! Children need brushing supervision until at least 7-8 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 it is too low, your child may need fluoride supplements so speak to your child’s dentist or pediatrician.
- Ask your dentist or dental hygienist about dental sealants for your child’s permanent molar teeth. Dental sealants are coatings that are applied to the chewing surfaces of the teeth to prevent cavities. Sealants should be applied as soon as the permanent molar teeth come in around the age of 6 for the first set of molars, and then again around the age of 12 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. The clinic offers general and preventive dental care including cleanings, dental 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’s Office of Oral Health. The Outreach Program includes two school-based dental programs in Harford County Schools (a dental screening program for pre-kindergarten 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.
The Maryland Department of Health’s Office of Oral Health offers many educational resources online including brochures and posters that educate parents and their children about the importance of brushing with fluoride toothpaste, flossing, eliminating sugary foods and drinks from the diet, and regular dental visits that help parents keep their child’s mouth healthy. Websites that include oral health tips and resources are the Maryland Office of Oral Health (www.oralhealth4betterhealth.com), Healthy Teeth, Healthy Kids (healthyteethhealthykids.org), the American Dental Association (www.mouthhealthy.org) and the National Maternal & Child Oral Health Resource Center (mchoralhealth.org). More information about the Harford County Health Department Dental Clinic’s services is available at https://harfordcountyhealth.com/ or by calling 443-922-7670.