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Preventing cavity bugs in kids

February is National Children's Dental Health Month. To promote healthy teeth, a team from the 96 th Dental Squadron is visiting local and base community classrooms throughout the month to demonstrate proper brushing techniques, discuss flossing and emphasize the importance of maintaining a dental health routine.

Maj. (Dr.) Bradley Harrelson, 96th Dental Squadron oral and maxillofacial surgeon, speaks to kids during a children's dental health month observance. Harrelson's alter ego is a high-spirited dentist who juggles and uses humor to teach the importance of dental health and oral hygiene. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- February is National Children's Dental Health Month. This year’s slogan is, “Brush Your Teeth with Fluoride Toothpaste and Clean Your Teeth for a Healthy Smile”.  NCDHM is an observance for providers and educators to promote the benefits of proper oral hygiene and good oral health to children, their families, caregivers and teachers.

To promote healthy teeth, a team from the 96 th Dental Squadron is visiting local and base community classrooms throughout the month to demonstrate proper brushing techniques, discuss flossing and emphasize the importance of maintaining a dental health routine.

To capture the children’s attention in a creative manner, Maj. (Dr.) Bradley Harrelson, 96th Dental Squadron oral and maxillofacial surgeon, morphs into a fun-loving character dubbed "Dr. Juggles."  Dr. Harrelson's alter ego is a high-spirited dentist who juggles different objects. His routine includes humor and interactive games while teaching the importance of dental health and oral hygiene. 

The 96th Dental Squadron estimates approximately 1,000 children will be reached through presentations to the Child Development Centers and Eglin Elementary School on base as well as Bluewater Early Education. During the visits all children receive a dental goody bag that includes a toothbrush and toothpaste.

NCDHM observances began with a one-day event in Cleveland, Ohio and a one-week event in Akron, Ohio in February of 1941. Since then, the concept grew from a two-city event into a nationwide program. The American Dental Association held its first national observance of Children’s Dental Health Day February 8, 1949. The single day observance became a weeklong event in 1955. And in 1981, the program was extended to a month-long celebration known as National Children’s Dental Health Month.

Attitudes and habits established at an early age are critical in maintaining good oral health throughout life. By participating in the annual celebration of NCDHM, members of dental teams, parents, teachers and others can help keep children’s smiles beautiful now and for years to come according to the American Dental Association. 

Prevention is key!  Children’s teeth generally begin to appear around the age of 6 months.  These baby teeth are prone to dental cavities as soon as they erupt.

Tips for healthy teeth from infants to teens include:

Cleaning a child’s teeth- A baby’s gums can be cleaned with a moist washcloth or gauze by gently wiping the gums.  When children’s teeth appear, parents/caregivers should brush the child’s teeth twice daily with a child sized, soft bristled toothbrush; birth to three years old, use toothpaste the size of a grain of rice and those three to six years of age, use a pea sized amount of toothpaste.  Parents clean in between the teeth using floss. Children should be assisted with brushing and flossing until their dexterity is developed and they can demonstrate proper techniques.

Healthy habits start early. It is recommended to brush for two minutes twice daily.

First dental visit- The American Dental Association recommends a child’s first dental visit within six months of their first tooth erupting and not later than their first birthday.  Making a child comfortable at the dental office is important.

Fluoride use- Fluoride occurs naturally in water.  It is sometimes added to community water system.  It is a natural mineral that benefits teeth by making the teeth stronger by helping the enamel to become more resistant to decay.  It is also found in toothpastes and mouth rinses. 

Eating healthy- A healthy diet with limitations on the amount of sugars is an important part of keeping the teeth cavity free.

Dental sealants- Dental sealants provide a protective coating for grooves in the teeth to prevent cavities.

The 96th Dental Squadron and American Dental Association stress that children’s teeth are meant to last a lifetime, and a healthy smile is important to a child’s self-esteem. With proper care, a balanced diet and regular dental visits, their teeth can remain healthy and strong.

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