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Walter Reed Bethesda Celebrates Children’s Dental Health Month


By Kalila Fleming

WRNMMC Command Communications

National Children’s Dental Health Month, observed during February, promotes awareness about the importance of oral health.
February 2 at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, the WRNMMC and Naval Postgraduate Dental School pediatric dental clinics will perform oral screenings, cavity assessments and teach children and their caregivers about good oral hygiene habits in the America Building (19), 4th floor Pediatrics Clinic.
Lead pediatric dentist Navy Cmdr. (Dr.) Sabina Yun explained the importance of caring for children’s teeth and why it is essential that caregivers start assisting with teeth cleaning at an early age.
“Adults and children alike need teeth for proper chewing and nutrition intake, speech development and to establish self-assurance and confidence. In addition to those basic functions, baby teeth serve as space savers for permanent teeth and help guide them into their proper alignment. She explained caring for a child’s oral health should begin before the first tooth erupts with wiping the gums with a clean, soft wet cloth. Begin getting the child accustomed to a tooth brush as soon as the first tooth erupts by using a child’s soft tooth brush, she added.
 “A baby tooth normally remains in a child’s mouth until a growing permanent tooth is ready to erupt through the gums. If a child loses a tooth prematurely due to an accident or extraction of a diseased tooth, it will lead to the loss of space and has the potential to cause the new permanent tooth to erupt out of alignment or fail to erupt completely,” Yun explained.
“When a child is about 6 years old, [the child’s “baby”] teeth will begin to come loose [in preparation for the growth of adult teeth],” according to the American Dental Association, the U.S. dental professional association established in 1859 which has more than 155,000 members. But care for a child’s teeth needs to begin long before then explained Pediatric Dental Assistant Navy Hospitalman Rodeja Rogers.
Rogers agreed with Yun that cleaning the baby’s gum with a clean, soft wet towel to eliminate build-up should begin before the first baby tooth erupts. “As soon as the child’s [baby] teeth come in, that’s when you need to get them used to having something in their mouth to have their teeth cleaned,” he added.
“As the teeth begin to erupt, start brushing with an age appropriate toothbrush twice a day (after breakfast and before bedtime) using a fluoridated toothpaste approved by the ADA, Yun furthered.
 “Make sure to look for the ADA seal of approval on the tube of the toothpaste. For children less than 3 years old, use a small ‘smear’ or ‘rice-size’ amount of toothpaste,” she added.
The pediatric dentist recommends children brush twice a day and keep rinsing after brushing to a minimum. “Remember to assist your child, because their manual dexterity and cognitive understanding are not mature enough to effectively clean their teeth,” she furthered.
Rogers and Yun emphasized taking into account what your children may eat or drink and how that can affect their baby teeth.
“It is important to limit prolonged and frequent exposure to simple carbohydrates, which are foods that break down into sugars into the mouth. This is to prevent cavities,” Yun explained.
For more information about the Feb. 2 children’s dental event or pediatric dental care, contact HN Rodeja Rogers at 301-295-1364.