February is National Children’s Dental Health Month

Each February, the American Dental Association (ADA) sponsors National Children’s Dental Health Month to raise awareness about the importance of oral health.

Why is this so important for our children?  All of us need healthy teeth to have a pretty smile, eat our food and be free of pain. Good oral health is very important because it keeps the rest of your body healthy. It is impossible to have a healthy body without good oral health.

Unfortunately, an epidemic of oral decay affects our most vulnerable citizens, our children. State pre-school children in Santa Barbara have a decay rate of 49%. Tooth decay is one of the most important reasons why children miss school.  A 2010 study published in the American Journal of Public Health showed that Children with poor oral health status were nearly 3 times more likely to miss school as a result of dental pain than their healthy peers.  Tooth decay is the “single most chronic disease of childhood,” according to the America Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. It’s five times more common than asthma, four times more common than early childhood obesity and 20 times more common than diabetes. Despite all of these facts, the perception that oral health is in some way less important than and separate from general health has been deeply ingrained in American consciousness.

The Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics are trying to raise awareness about oral health and wants to partner with you to make sure your child has good oral health, can be free of pain and does not have to miss school. All of our dental clinics are focusing their efforts to improve your child’s oral health through effective and modern preventive dental procedures such as dental sealants and topical fluoride varnish. We have oral health education classes every week for all of our children patients and their parents. It is therefore very important that you bring your child to the dentist. We are reaching out to the community by partnering with various local organizations. The Head-Start sites in the Santa Barbara South County are in a partnership with us and we present oral health education to their parents. Our annual Cavity Free Club Celebration in collaboration with the Santa Barbara Smiles Philanthropy of the Assistance League will be held on Saturday March 3. We have many other events to bring the message of good oral health to our community.

Remember as a parent you are responsible for your child’s oral health. You can do a lot to help and be proactive. Your child should see a dentist every 6 months even if you think everything is ok. Supervise your child’s tooth brushing habits. Help your child to brush and floss the teeth after every meal. Reduce sugar-containing foods and soda drinks as much as you can. Substitute unhealthy snacks with healthy choices such as cheese, vegetables, water and milk. And remember baby teeth are just as important as adult teeth. The adult teeth grow below the baby teeth. Infected baby teeth will damage the adult teeth. Therefore you have to look at your child’s teeth every day and see if you can spot any yellow or dark areas on the teeth or unusual areas in the oral cavity. If you do, it is time to make an appointment with your dentist.

Article written by SBNC’s Chief Dental Officer, Domenic Caluori, DMD