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Children oral health

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Children oral health
Experts say focus on children’s oral health should be ongoing
by Fred Michmershuizen, DTA

GLENDALE/NEW YORK, USA: According to many dental health care experts, more should be done to improve the oral health of the nation’s youngest patients. One group, the California Dental Hygienists’ Association (CDHA), says protecting the smiles of young children requires a year-round commitment, not just a monthlong event.

“Taking a month to spotlight this issue is a wonderful opportunity to better educate parents and the public,” said Daphne Von Essen, president of the CDHA, commenting on the recent National Children’s Dental Health Month, which was held in February. “But this really needs to be something we as a society focus on 365 days a year because we have millions of California children suffering from insufficient oral health care.”

According to the CDHA, the most vulnerable Californians are children in low-income families who have limited access to dental care, lack of dental education and nutritional needs—all of which result in a high cavity rate in children. The greatest racial and ethnic disparity is seen among children ages 2 through 8, especially in Hispanic, African American and rural communities.

Early childhood caries is one of the most common diseases in this age group, according to the CDHA. By conservative estimates, it affects more than one out of seven preschoolers and over half of California’s elementary school children.

“Poor oral health not only results in cavities but sets in motion the potential for long-term health risks,” said Von Essen.

Poor oral health has been associated with heart disease, diabetes, potential strokes, along with low birth weight and preterm deliveries, she said. Oral health problems can also lead to pain, poor nutrition and development, impaired speech, loss of employment, time away from school, and low self-esteem.

To combat these problems, CDHA is reminding parents, guardians and caregivers to observe a few simple rules:
Make sure each child has a dental visit by his or her first birthday.
Children should not fall asleep with a sippy cup or bottle containing anything other than water.
Avoid letting children drink juice from a bottle.
At birth, starting cleaning a child’s gums with a soft infant toothbrush or washcloth and water.

“Tooth decay is the most common disease for children,” Von Essen said. “And all it takes is a little education and a toothbrush to combat it.”

During National Children’s Dental Health Month, hundreds of dental hygienists in California and across the country participated in community outreach programs in concert with local departments of public health, Head Start programs, school districts, dental and dental hygiene schools, and Boys & Girls Clubs.


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