Dental Clinics at Walter Reed Bethesda Plan Event for National Children’s
Dental Health Month
By Cmdr. (Dr.) Sabina Yun
Dentist, Navy Medicine Professional Development Center
In conjunction with National Children’s Dental Health Month
during February, the Pediatric Dental Clinic of Walter Reed National Military
Medical Center and Navy Postgraduate Dental School will perform oral screenings
and caries (cavities) assessments Feb. 1 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the America
Building (Bldg. 19), 4th floor Pediatrics Clinic.
The assessments are open to all children from 1 to 12 years
of age with base access to WRNMMC. TRICARE eligibility is not required. Other
activities during the event include face painting, storytelling, games and
instruction on teaching children good oral hygiene habits.
National Children’s Dental Health Month is observed annually
during February to increase awareness that it’s never too early to promote good
oral health habits. Some questions are as old as dentistry and they include: Are
baby teeth really that important? Won’t they just fall out anyway? Do I really
need to take care of them?
The answers to these questions are just as old: Yes, baby teeth
are important. Yes, they will fall out anyway. Yes, it is important to take
proper care of them from the very beginning.
The fact is baby teeth are as important to children as
permanent teeth are to adults.
Adults and children alike need teeth for proper chewing and
nutrition intake, speech development and establishing self-assurance and
confidence for every time we smile. In addition to those basic functions, baby
teeth serve as space savers for permanent teeth and help guide them into their
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. Improperly aligned
teeth may require expensive and time-consuming orthodontic treatment in the
future. For those reasons, it is very important that baby teeth are kept
healthy and in place until they are lost naturally.
Keeping baby teeth healthy should start just days after
birth and continue for a lifetime of healthy oral care.
The first care you provide is actually for the baby’s gums.
Start cleaning your baby’s gums using water and a soft towel or cloth. 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 that
has been approved by the American Dental Association.
For children less than 3 years old, use a small smear or
rice-size amount of toothpaste for brushing. For children 3 to 5 years old, use
no more than a pea-size amount of toothpaste. Brush twice a day, and rinsing
after brushing should be kept to a minimum or eliminated completely. Remember
to assist your child because their manual dexterity and cognitive understanding
are not mature enough to effectively clean their teeth. A good gauge to go by
to determine when your child is able to brush his or her teeth independently is
the ability to tie his or her shoelaces; help with brushing a child’s teeth should
continue until the child can confidently tie his or her shoelaces on their own.
Another way to promote healthy teeth is to drink fluoridated
Consuming fluoridated water and using small amounts of
fluoride topically on a routine basis can help prevent tooth decay by
strengthening tooth structure and reducing bacterial activity that causes
cavities. Research shows that community water fluoridation has lowered decay
rates by more than 50 percent, which translates to fewer cavities, so encourage
your child to sip fluoridated water throughout the day to make their teeth
While beneficial, it is important to note that too much
fluoride can lead to fluorosis, which can cause staining or pitting of the
Another key to proper baby teeth care is to watch what your
children eat and drink. Dietary choices play an important role in oral health.
One common cavity-causing mistake is to allow children to fall asleep with a
bottle or nurse a sippy cup filled with milk or juice. It is important to limit
prolonged and frequent exposure to simple carbohydrates, foods that break down
into sugars in the mouth. These include sugary foods such as cookies, cakes,
soft drinks, juice and candy, with the sticky types being the worst. Some other non-obvious foods that can
potentially contain a lot of sugar are granolas, crackers and cereals. Offering
young children healthy snacks such as cheese, nuts, beans, vegetables and
fruits is important to develop healthy teeth. If a bottle or sippy cup is
necessary to help soothe a child or help them sleep, water or a sugar-free
drink are better options than milk or surgery juices.
For more information about the Feb. 1 dental fair, call
301-295-1364. For more information about children’s oral health, visit the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention websitewww.cdc.gov/oralhealth/children_adults/child.htm.