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Pediatric  Dental   Health

Get Coloring Sheets, Crossword Puzzles, and Activity Sheets for Children's Dental Health Month!

February 1, 2003

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 Such an outdated, reactive, approach is no longer appropriate in the age of preventive health, however.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 be built!

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 exist.

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.

Nowak AJ, Casamassimo PS: The dental home. A primary care oral health concept. JADA Jan 2002; 133(1):(93-98).

Copyright ©2003 Daniel Ravel, DDS

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