Bel Air, MD – February 5, 2013 February is the observance of National Children’s Dental Health Month, placing emphasis on the need for parents and caregivers to take action early to ensure the health of their children’s teeth.
The Harford County Health Department reminds the public that tooth decay is the most common chronic disease found in children. Each year, more than 51 million school hours are lost due to dental related problems. Fortunately, with good oral health care habits, tooth decay can be prevented.
According to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 18 percent of children ages two to four have experienced tooth decay, and nearly one out of six have untreated tooth decay. By age 17, more than seven percent of children have lost at least one permanent tooth due to decay. In Maryland, 31 percent of kindergarten and third grade children have tooth decay that, if it remains untreated, causes pain and infections that may lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing and learning.
CDC lists some things you can do to ensure good oral health for your child:
- Encourage your children to eat regular nutritious meals and avoid frequent between-meal snacking.
- Use a fluoride toothpaste. If your child is less than 7 years old, put only a pea-sized amount on their toothbrush.
- If your drinking water is not fluoridated, talk to a dentist or physician about the best way to protect your child’s teeth.
- Talk to your child’s dentist about dental sealants. They protect teeth from decay.
- If you are pregnant, get prenatal care and eat a healthy diet. The diet should include folic acid to prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord and possibly cleft lip/palate.
Health Officer, Susan Kelly, states “Taking care of your children’s teeth, including baby teeth, from the very start is the key to good oral health. A child should visit the dentist when his or her first tooth appears, or by his or her first birthday.” She goes on to stress to parents and caregivers the importance of serving as role models and teaching their children good oral (dental) health care habits, including proper brushing and flossing techniques, eating nutritious foods and making regular visits to the dentist. “As a result of opening our dental health clinic on March 31, 2008, the Health Department offers dental services to children who may never before have had a dental exam . . . in a county with one of the highest rates of dental disease in the state.”
“The benefits of creating a public health dental clinic in Harford County translates even further than improving oral health,” explains Dr. Harry Goodman, the State’s Oral Health Program Director, and a resident ofHarfordCounty. “Providing dental services also improves a child’s general health and self-esteem, prevents chronic health problems, and reduces school absenteeism rates resulting in higher academic achievement.”
The Health Department’s Dental Clinic, located at 2204 Hanson Road in the Edgewood Plaza Shopping Center in Edgewood, serves as a dental home for children ages 1 – 20 who are enrolled in the Maryland Children’s Health Program (MCHP) and for pregnant women on MCHP. This year, the facility celebrates its fifth year of operation responding to the oral health care needs of more than 6,000 children and pregnant women enrolled in the Medical Assistance Program by providing general and preventive dental care including cleanings, oral examinations, fluoride treatments, fillings and sealants.
For more information about Harford County’s public health dental clinic or to schedule an appointment, please call (443) 922-7670. Additional information on childhood dental health can be obtained by visiting www.harfordcountyhealth.com or www.fha.state.md.us/oralhealth/ .