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The History of the National Children’s Dental Health Month

Children at the McChord Child Development Center learn about the importance of dental care as part of National Children’s Dental Health Month Feb. 1, 2017, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. JBLM dental staffs traveled to JBLM CDCs and schools to educate youth on oral hygiene techniques, proper diet and more. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Naomi Shipley)

Children at the McChord Child Development Center learn about the importance of dental care as part of National Children’s Dental Health Month Feb. 1, 2017, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. JBLM dental staffs traveled to JBLM CDCs and schools to educate youth on oral hygiene techniques, proper diet and more. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Naomi Shipley)

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- --

The history of the National Children’s Dental Health Month began 3 Feb. 1941 in Cleveland, Ohio.  The American Dental Association designated one day to observe Children’s Dental Health.  In 1955, the event pushed to a one-week event.  In 1981, the ADA voted to extend the event to a one-month observance.  Now, 36-years later, the NCDHM influences thousands of people throughout their communities and across our nation.  Every February, dental health professionals focus on educating to inspire an oral health spirit in local communities.  These professionals take trips to local schools, child care facilities, libraries…virtually anywhere to spread the word on the benefits of proper oral healthcare. As we teach, we hope to instill healthy habits in our nation’s young minds.

This year’s NCDHM slogan, Choose Tap Water for a Sparkling Smile,focuses on the benefits of fluoride in our drinking water.  In the 1930’s, Dr. H. Trendley Dean hypothesized the idea of adding fluoride to drinking water to fight tooth decay. After much debate and discussion, the city of Grand Rapids, Mich. became the first city in the world to fluoridate their water.  After 11 years of study focusing on 30,000 children, Dr. Dean concluded that fluoridated water reduced cavities in children by 60%.  Today, the ADA recommends 0.7-1.2 ppm of fluoride be added to city drinking water for a safe yet effective range for fluoridation. That is 0.7 to 1.2 parts per MILLION! For merely trace amounts of fluoride added to our drinking water, our children require three times fewer visits to the dentist.  NerdWallet.com declares this free addition to our drinking water saves approximately $160 to $1,300 in fillings per tooth. Parents, this is real money back in your pockets.

We also find fluoride in toothpastes, mouth rinses, dietary supplements and professional applied compounds. Additionally, there are various natural food sources that contain fluoride.  Fresh fruit, raw vegetables, eggs, orange juice, bread with folic acid and milk all possess naturally occurring fluoride.  Parents, adding these sources to your children’s daily diet can further help prevent tooth decay and bolster oral health.  This is especially important for children under the age of six as they develop their permanent teeth.

The U.S. experienced a spike in fluoridated toothpastes in 1986 and by the mid-1990’s, the market reported 90% of all toothpastes contained fluoride.  Brushing your child’s teeth at least twice a day with a pea-sized amount of fluoride enhanced toothpaste on the appropriate age specific toothbrush will fortify mineralization of the enamel structure.  We recommend parents supervise the brushing ritual closely.  Likewise, instill the need to floss.  We want to clean out debris collected and stored between the teeth that can build acid to demineralize tooth enamel.    

Final takeaways:  National Children’s Dental Health Month is February.  Fluoride in our drinking water helps fight tooth decay and strengthens our oral health.  Fluoridated drinking water reduces children cavity rates thus reducing expensive trips to the dentist saving money for pizza night.  Oh, and remember to floss.