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February 2000  -  Volume 3  -  Issue 2

National Children's Dental Health by Nancy Braden


National Children's Dental Health Month

Nancy Braden, Public Health Information Coordinatior
Jefferson County Department of Health and Environment

Tooth decay remains the most common chronic health disease for children despite advances made with sealants and fluoride. February is National Child Dental Care Month and the Jefferson County Department of Health and Environment urges residents to make sure their children are receiving regular dental care. The Jefferson County Department of Health and Environment's reduced cost dental care clinic offers dental care to low income residents of Jefferson County aged 3 to 18 years. Dentists, dental assistants and hygenists provide preventative and restorative dental care services. Jefferson County Dental Clinic is funded by K.I.N.D. (Kids in Need of Dentistry), the United Way and the Jefferson County Department of Health and Environment.

Dental conditions that affect children (tooth decay, gum disease, tobacco related conditions) are fundamentally preventable and once they occurred are treatable. Unfortunately, many Colorado children go without dental care. Children with dental problems suffer daily from chronic toothaches, disfigured smiles, dysfunctional speech and difficulty eating. Tooth decay is increasingly a disease of low and modest income children. According to the National Institute of Dental Research 80% of tooth decay is now found in only 25% of children.

In 1999, the Department of Health and Environment's dental clinic treated 1, 014 children. Staff doctors provided $ 166,007 worth of treatment and volunteers in clinic provided $31,696 worth of treatment in 1999.

To decrease cavities, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends children eat a balanced diet and only have foods with sugar or starch at meal times. The Academy further recommends that snacks are only served three or four times a day and that whenever possible the snacks are nutritious. Cheese, vegetables, yougurt, mill even chocolate milk are good examples. To prevent baby bottle tooth decay, children should never be put to bed with a bottle of milk, formula or juice.

For more information or to make an appointment at the Jefferson County KIND Dental Clinic please call the dental office at 303-982-8530, Monday through Friday, 8:00-5:00 p.m. The dental clinic is located at Warren Tech at 13300 West 2nd Place in Lakewood.

About National Children's Dental Health Month

American Dental Association

The annual observance of children's dental health began as a one-day event in Cleveland, Ohio on February 3, 1941. During that year, February 3-7 was designated as Children's Dental Health Week in Akron, Ohio. The American Dental Association held the first national observance of Children's Dental Health Day on February 8, 1949. This single day observance became a week-long event in 1955. In 1981, the program was extended to a month-long celebration known today as National Children's Dental Health Month.

Since 1941, the observance has grown from a two-city event into a nationwide program. NCDHM messages reach millions of people in communities across the country and at numerous armed service bases abroad. Local observances often include poster, coloring, and essay contests, health fairs, free dental screening, museum exhibits, classroom presentations and dental office tours.

Frequently Asked Questions About Dental Care for Children

When should I take my child to see the dentist?

Ideally, your child's first dental visit should be by the first birthday. If you take your child to the dentist at an early age, your dentist can help you prevent any problems. Your dentist will check for decay and other problems, teach you how to clean your child's teeth daily and identify your child's fluoride needs. By starting dental visits early, you'll help your child build a lifetime of good dental habits.

Can babies get cavities?

Yes. As soon as teeth appear in the mouth, decay can occur. One serious form of decay among young children is baby bottle tooth decay. This condition can occur when an infant is allowed to nurse continuously from a bottle of milk, formula, sugar water or fruit juice during naps or at night. If these liquids pool around the child's teeth during sleep, the teeth will be attacked by acids for long periods of time, and serious decay can result. If you must give your baby a bottle as a comforter at bedtime, make sure it contains only water. And never dip a pacifier into sugar or honey.

Is teething painful?

Yes. When babies are teething, usually between the ages of four months and 2 years, they often have sore and tender gums. The pain usually can be soothed by gently rubbing the baby's gums with a clean finger, a small, cool spoon or a wet gauze. A clean teething ring for the baby to chew on also may be helpful. Teething does not cause a fever. If your child has an elevated temperature, it needs to be addressed as a separate medical concern. If your baby continues to be cranky and uncomfortable after you attempt to ease its teething pain, call your physician.

When should thumbsucking stop?

Children should have ceased thumbsucking by the time the permanent front teeth are ready to erupt. Usually, children stop between the ages of two and four years. Sucking often gradually lessens during this period as children spend more of their waking hours exploring their surroundings. Peer pressure causes many school-aged children to stop. Some studies show that thumbsucking behavior is viewed negatively by classmates. Children with these behaviors may have more problems making friends.

Can a child lose a primary tooth too early?

Sometimes a primary tooth is lost before the permanent tooth beneath it is ready to erupt. If the primary teeth are lost too early, nearby teeth can tip or move into the vacant space. When the permanent teeth are ready to come into the mouth, there may not be enough room. As a result, teeth may erupt out of their proper positions, leading to malocclusion. To avoid such future problems, your dentist may recommend using a space maintainer to reserve space for the permanent tooth.

Facts About Fluoride

Cavities used to be a fact of life. But over the past few decades, tooth decay has been reduced dramatically. The key reason: Research has shown that fluoride reduces cavities in both children and adults. It also helps repair the early stages of tooth decay even before the decay becomes visible. Unfortunately, many people continue to be misinformed about fluoride and fluoridation. Fluoride is like any other nutrient; it is safe and effective when used appropriately. This article will help you learn more about the important oral health benefits of Fluoridation fluoride.

Fluoride: Nature's Cavity Fighter

Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally in all water sources, even the oceans. The fluoride ion comes from the element fluorine. Fluorine, the 13th most abundant element in the earth's crust, is never encountered in its free state in nature. It exists only in combination with other elements as a fluoride compound.

Fluoride is effective in preventing and reversing the early signs of dental caries already present in the mouth making them more decay-resistant. Topical fluorides include toothpastes, mouthrinses and professionally applied fluoride therapies.

Systemic fluorides are those that are ingested into the body and become incorporated into forming tooth structures. Systemic fluorides can also give topical protection because fluoride is present in saliva, which continually bathes the teeth. Systemic fluorides include water fluoridation or dietary fluoride supplements in the form of tablets, drops or lozenges.

The American Dental Association recommends that everyone use a fluoride toothpaste displaying the ADA Seal of Acceptance. No matter how you get the fluoride you need - whether it be through your drinking water, supplements, toothpaste, mouthrinse or professionally applied fluoride -- you can be confident that fluoride is silently at work

  • All sources of fluoride should be evaluated with a thorough fluoride history.
  • Patient exposure to multiple water sources can make proper prescribing complex.
  • Ingestion of higher than recommended levels of fluoride by children has been associated with an increase in mild dental fluorosis in developing, uneruptedteeth.
  • Fluoride supplements require long-term compliance on a daily basis.

Copyright 1998/1999 American Dental Association.

Excerpted from the following sources:

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