Celebrating Children's Dental Health Month
National Children's Dental Health Month (NCDHM) is a month-long nationwide
program which promotes healthy smiles in children. The American Dental
Association has sponsored this annual event every February, since 1981.
NCDHM originated in 1941 in Cleveland, Ohio as a one-day dental health program.
Since then, it has grown into a month-long observance, and every February it
reaches millions of people. Local observances often include: school
programs, dental society promotions, health fairs, and public service
announcements. School lesson
plans and activity sheets may be modified to observe National Children's
Dental Health Month.
In spite of the current national emphasis on preventive dental health, however,
many children are still affected by dental caries. Caries in the baby (primary)
teeth is one of the most common health problems affecting young children. In
1996, a national oral health survey found that 38% of children, ages 2 through
9, had dental caries. Caries prevalence in children attending Head Start
programs has reached 90% in some group samples. Early childhood caries (ECC) is
also a leading cause of operating room admissions for children requiring dental
restorations and extractions. Obtaining treatment for caries can be difficult,
since according to a 1997 study, almost 4.2 million children in the U.S. were
unable to obtain dental care.
In the past, children went to the dentist only after a problem was severe enough
to be noticed by a parent. Such an outdated, reactive, approach is no longer
appropriate in the age of preventive health, however. The infant oral health
visit is now the foundation upon which a lifetime of oral and dental health can
The American Dental Association, the American Academy of General Dentistry, and
the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry all recommend that a child's first
oral health visit take place at 12 months of age, or shortly after the eruption
of the first baby teeth. This is the ideal time for a dentist to evaluate a
child's oral and dental health, as well as to diagnose any problems which may
Oral health is a vital component of a child's overall health. A partnership
between families, dental professionals, and other health professionals is
necessary for achieving oral health in children.
Children’s oral and dental health is achievable! By providing a healthy diet,
minimizing the consumption of sweets, cleaning a child's teeth twice a day, and
getting early dental examinations, a child can have a happy, healthy smile.
An article in the Journal of the American Dental Association
describes the concept of the dental home as a means of improving access to
dental care for children. The dental home can provide anticipatory guidance to
parents so that they become aware of their children's growth and development, as
well as dental risk factors. The dental home can provide personalized preventive
intervention, based on the needs of the child. Establishing a dental home early
in a child's life provides early intervention and preventive services, reduces
anxiety, and facilitates referral to specialists.