For the month-long observance of National Children’s Dental Health Month, the American Dental Association “brings together thousands of dedicated dental professionals, health care providers and others to promote the benefits of good oral health to...


For the month-long observance of National Children’s Dental Health Month, the American Dental Association “brings together thousands of dedicated dental professionals, health care providers and others to promote the benefits of good oral health to children and adults, caregivers, teachers and many others.”

Preventing tooth decay in children is an extremely important public health goal, according to the Chicago Dental Society:

Did you know?

• Tooth decay is the number one most common chronic disease in children.

• 51 million school hours are lost each year to dental problems.

• Research shows that if a child’s tooth decay goes untreated, it can lead to tooth loss, speech problems and even loss of self-esteem.


This year’s NCDHM campaign slogan is “Water, Nature’s Drink!” To that end, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services encourages parents to serve their children healthy foods and beverages to ensure good dental health:

• Serve your child healthy foods that are low in natural and added sugar.

• Serve milk or tap (faucet) water with meals and snacks.

• Give your child a variety of healthy snacks, such as cheese and crackers, at scheduled times during the day.

• Give your child tap water several times a day.

• Avoid serving drinks that are high in natural or added sugar, such as fruit juice, fruit drinks, and pop/soda.


Why water? Kelley Mingus explains:

With our bodies comprised of approximately 60 percent water, and with water covering 71 percent of the earth water truly is nature’s drink. In fact, it’s estimated that the human body cannot go without water for more than three days! In addition to helping keep our bodies healthy, water is also great for our teeth, as it doesn’t contain harmful sugars that cause cavities, and can help wash away dangerous plaque and food particles that cling to our teeth.


Taking care of the toothbrush is a good habit to keep to improve oral hygiene:

• Brush your child’s teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice a day.

∗ For children under age 3, use a rice-size amount of fluoride toothpaste.

∗ For children ages 3 to 6, use a pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste.

• After toothbrushing, rinse the brush and store it upright in a holder to air dry. Do not let toothbrushes touch each other.

• Do not share toothbrushes. Sharing toothbrushes can transfer disease-causing germs from one person to another.

• If anyone in the family is sick, keep their toothbrush away from everyone else’s toothbrushes. Replace the toothbrush after the family member is better.


It’s important to use toothpaste containing fluoride, but only a little bit for each brushing. The reason is young kids are more likely to swallow than spit out their toothpaste, increasing the chances of ingesting too much fluoride.

Most municipal water systems in the United States add trace amounts of fluoride to add strength to developing teeth and reduce cavities in children:

A child’s body needs water to be healthy and active. Many communities have tap (faucet) water with fluoride. Giving children water with fluoride is one of the best ways to keep their teeth healthy. When children drink water with fluoride throughout the day, their teeth are bathed in low levels of fluoride, which helps to keep teeth strong.


Because so little fluoride is added to tap water, drinking it rarely contributes to dental fluorosis, a minor condition in which the developing tooth enamel doesn’t properly mineralize. Families that get their drinking water from private wells are advised to check for natural fluoride due to its variable concentration in groundwater.

Most kids prefer sweet things to drink, so water might not be the first choice to quench their thirst. HHS suggests these tips to encourage kids to drink more water:

• Make drinking water fun for your child. Use bendy, silly, or colored straws. Or let your child choose their favorite cups or water bottles.

• Use water bottles that can be carried anywhere. Refill them with tap water. Most bottled water does not have fluoride.

• Add a lemon, lime, or orange slice or fresh mint leaves to the water. Or add fruit like blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries.

• Give your child water with ice cubes or crushed ice. Look for ice cube trays in fun shapes like dinosaurs, letters, or animals.

• Be a good role model for your child. Drink water instead of drinks that have sugar, like juice, fruit drinks, soda (pop), or sports drinks.

• Set up a station where your child can get a drink of water when they are thirsty. Keep a nonbreakable water pitcher or thermos on a low stool or a chair where your child can reach it.

• Read books or show your child videos about drinking water, for example Potter the Otter: A Tale About Water and Potter the Otter Loves to Drink Water.


February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. Read more about dental health on The PediaBlog here.

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