Healthy Smiles, Healthy Kids: Children’s Dental Health Month

March 14, 2014

Ways to keep kids smiling bright and healthy

Did you know that February was Children’s Dental Health Month? Today, we’re excited to share a guest blog from one of the American Dental Association’s spokespeople, Dr. Mary Hayes, highlighting the important role good dental health can play in making sure children are healthy and ready to learn.

by Dr. Mary Hayes

With another National Children's Dental Health Month behind us, it’s important to remember that good dental health is valuable to our children every day of the year. In fact, kids’ oral health can impact their overall health, now and as they grow, so establishing healthy habits with your children now, like a daily brushing and flossing routine, is important to forming long-term healthy habits.

Did you know that according to a Surgeon General Report, 51 million school hours are lost each year because of dental disease? Cavities continue to be an epidemic. Data shows that 20-25 percent of 3 year olds and 65 percent of 12-18 year olds have decayed teeth. It’s five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever. And it could be avoided in large part by ingraining good brushing habits early. That’s why participating in positive events in our schools, and valuing the role of dental health in our homes, is an important message to pass on to our children.

I recently saw a good example of a school promoting good dental health at the Pershing School of Berwyn, Illinois. The school sponsored a Brush-In event on February 11 for its second graders. During the Brush-In event, students learned about the four keys to good oral health which serve as good reminders to us all:

1. Teeth are an important part of daily life for eating, talking and smiling

2. Teeth need to be kept clean to be healthy

3. Good food choices will keep plaque (sticky bacteria) from growing on the teeth

4. Brushing needs to be done 2 times a day for two minutes every day. And flossing is a great help as well.

Each second grader who participated in the Brush-In went home that day with a toothbrush and a big smile.

The school partnered with the foundation Oral Health America and the Children's Clinic of the Oak Park Infant Welfare Society, as well as the oral health products company, Firefly to make the event happen. The Mayor of Berwyn, Robert Lovero, and State Representative Elizabeth Hernandez were also in attendance, speaking about the need for the community at large to engage in their efforts to promote good oral health through public policy. The event was a great example of calling attention to the importance of oral health and the role schools can play in supporting it.

Take the time to explore how you too can bring oral health lessons into the classroom and get tips on how to instill healthy habits from the start at home. The American Dental Association offers a variety of classroom materials along with a Mouth Healthy Kids website full of informational resources. Additionally, 2min2x.org has a series of fun videos for kids to watch while brushing as well as interactive games for kids to play and a brush checklist for parents to use to keep track of their kid's brushing routine – and more. Also, check out  mychildrensteeth.org for materials aimed at teaching children to appreciate their smiles.

Thank you, Dr. Hayes, for sharing this blog with us!