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February is National Children's Dental Health Month

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- February is a busy month for dental professionals across the country, as they educate children of all ages on good oral health for National Children's Dental Health Month.

It is no different at the 21st Dental Squadron where dental health professionals are working diligently to promote the importance of healthy habits to future generations. Children who are exposed to good oral hygiene habits at an early age are more likely to maintain good oral hygiene throughout their life, which will impact their overall health as adults. While oral health in children has improved significantly over the years, tooth decay remains one of the most common diseases in children and is the leading cause for missed school. The good news is, cavities are easily preventable, as long as children are armed with knowledge and the proper tools.

Dental professionals play an important role in educating and encouraging prevention of tooth decay. The American Dental Association sponsors National Children's Dental Health Month so that dental professionals may reach out to children in their local community and promote healthy oral habits in a fun-filled and low-stress environment. Members of the 21st Dental Squadron will be visiting the Peterson Child Development Centers, the RP Lee Youth Center, and will participate in story time at the base library, all with one goal in mind -- to get our children to think about their oral health and provide them with the knowledge to maintain a healthy smile throughout their life. Topics will include the meaning of the "secret code" 2x2minutes (brush two times a day for two minutes) in order to defeat the "sugar bugs," better known as bacterial plaque. Activities will help them recognize the difference between a healthy, tooth-friendly snack and a sugary, cavity-causing snack.

Parents are also encouraged to take an active role in their child's oral hygiene routine. Although most children will brush their teeth on their own, parents still need to check behind them to make sure they are doing an effective job, and brush for them if necessary. Some key tips that all parents should keep in mind are:

· Gently clean your baby's gums with a damp washcloth or soft gauze pad (It's never too early to start an oral hygiene routine).
· Never allow an infant to nurse continuously from a bottle of milk, formula or soft drink, especially before and during a nap or at bedtime. No matter the age, if a child has teeth they can get cavities.
· Help your child brush and floss their teeth until they are old enough to do an effective job on their own. The American Dental Association recommends that children less than 7 years-old receive help from an adult.
· Schedule regular dental checkups, beginning no later than six months after their first baby tooth appears.
· Restrict the amount of candy, soda, fruit juices, sweets and any other high sugars that your child may consume as this increases the chance of cavities and promotes poor oral hygiene.
· If your child plays sports, make sure he or she always wears a mouth guard.

The 21st Dental Squadron is excited to share its knowledge with children and hope that through efforts this month, children will be encouraged to care for their teeth and maybe make the parents' job a little easier when it's time to brush teeth. Don't be surprised if after this month your child has one or two things they are excited to teach you.

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