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February is Children’s Dental Health Month

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February is Children’s Dental Health Month. This is a great time to promote daily oral health habits to children, parents, and caregivers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cavities are one of the most common chronic diseases among children in the United States. In Orange County 1 in 2 kindergartners have cavities. Untreated cavities can cause pain and infections that may lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing, and learning. Daily oral health practices started at an early age can help maintain healthy teeth and gums throughout life.

It is important that all children brush their teeth twice (2) a day for two (2) minutes. Small children may need the help of an adult to brush their teeth until they are able to learn good brushing skills. Make sure they use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and always spit it out rather than swallow. If the child is unable to spit out, a rice grain sized amount of toothpaste should be used.

Healthy smile tips for children of all ages from the American Dental Association:

  • Brush teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss between teeth daily.
  • Eat healthy foods and limit sugary foods and drinks.
  • See the dentist twice a year.
  • Drink tap water that contains fluoride.

Children’s teeth are meant to last a lifetime, and a healthy smile is important to a child’s self-esteem. With proper care, a balanced diet, and regular dental visits, their teeth can remain healthy and strong.

More ways to help your child maintain good oral health:

Oral health information – Learn how to keep your and your family’s smile healthy from SmilehabitsOC.org

Children’s Oral Health – How to protect your child’s teeth from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Press Release – National Brush Day

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Apply toothpaste. Brush. Spit. And repeat twice a day.

(Santa Ana) A typical Halloween night consists of dressing up and visiting neighbors, friends and family for candy distribution and eating. Halloween is only one night, but it is followed by many days of snacking on sugary sweets. In 2003, the Healthy Mouths Campaign established November 1st as National Brush Day to support the importance of children’s oral health and to promote good tooth-brushing habits.

Although National Brush Day comes once a year, regularly brushing your teeth is a habit that prevents cavities. The campaign encourages parents to make sure their kids brush their teeth for two minutes, twice a day. Teach your children a two-minute song to hum while brushing their teeth. Some good songs are:

  • Twinkle Twickle Little Star
  • Row Row Your Boat
  • Wheels on the Bus

The 2018 Orange County Dental Screening Survey revealed that nearly half of kindergartners had cavities but only one-third of those children had received treatment for their decaying teeth. This means there are kindergartners in Orange County who are currently suffering from decaying teeth.

Many parents believe that their children are brushing their teeth twice a day because the parents see the children putting the toothbrush in their mouths. However, children have limited hand-eye coordination which makes it unlikely they are reaching every tooth at every angle. Some children brush for less than two minutes and only touch the front and top of their teeth. As a result, these children may develop cavities despite the daily ritual of tooth brushing in the morning and before bed.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry advises parents to monitor their child’s brushing activity until they are eight (8) years old. National Brush Day was created to remind parents, caretakers or anyone responsible for a child, to take time out of their busy schedules to help the child brush his or her teeth on a daily basis. It is also important to encourage brushing after meals and sugary snacks.

On this National Brush Day, the Orange County Local Oral Health Program (LOHP) along with the Healthy Mouth’s Campaign encourages everyone, not just children, to brush their teeth twice a day for two minutes. The LOHP’s mission is to help all Orange County residents achieve the best oral health, and brushing your teeth is the first step. To get more information about oral health for everyone in your family, visit SmileHabitsOC.org at https://smilehabitsoc.org/

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Drinking Fluoridated Water

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Did you know that drinking tap water is good for your health and it can also save you money?

Tap water is safe, free, and readily available to all. Drinking at least 8-10 cups of water a day is important for hydration, organ functions, and it also helps neutralize harmful acids in our mouths.  Sugar-sweetened beverages on the other hand are costly and can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and even cavities.  Water is universally the best drink for our overall health!

Most water supplies contain a small amount of a mineral called fluoride. Fluoride helps strengthen our teeth by coating the enamel and repairing any damaged or weakened areas of the tooth. Drinking fluoridated water can help both children and adults.  It helps reduce dental decay by 25%.

To improve the dental health of our communities, tap water is carefully and optimally fluoridated. Community control of water fluoridation levels is supported by many health advocates and provider organizations, because it has been proven to be safe and effective in fighting tooth decay.

What does water fluoridation do?

  • Saves money on dental treatments! – For every $1 spent on water fluoridation, around $32 is saved on dental treatments (avoiding fillings due to tooth decay).
  • When young children drink fluoridated water, fluoride enters the bloodstream and strengthens their developing set of adult teeth.
  • For all ages, fluoridated water mixes with our saliva to coat our teeth to defend our teeth against the “acid attack” from bacteria that causes dental decay.

Note: Please check with your local water system and their quality reports, before drinking your community’s tap water. In the Consumer Confidence Reports (CCR) report, a list of the minerals found in your water will be provided. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set the community water fluoridation to 0.7 parts per million (ppm). If your community’s tap water has a lower level of fluoride than 0.7ppm, talk to your dental provider about additional ways to supplement fluoride.

Preventing Tooth Decay

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Did you know that tooth decay is one of the most common chronic childhood diseases? It is even 5 times more common than asthma! Studies show that children with dental problems are 3 times more likely to miss school and have lower test scores than those with healthy teeth. The good news is that tooth decay preventable! Read on to learn about services that your child can receive.

FLUORIDE:

Fluoride is a mineral naturally found in small amounts of our everyday food and water supply. At a concentrated amount, fluoride has proven to strengthen the tooth’s enamel. This protects against tooth decay. The application of fluoride varnish is quick and painless. A dentist, registered dental hygienist, doctor, medical assistant or nurse can do this for your child. He/she will paint the fluoride varnish onto your child’s teeth with a small brush. Your child’s saliva sets it onto the tooth. So, it is recommended to let the varnish sit on the tooth for at least 5 hours for best results. The benefits of the treatment can last up to 6 months. Your child can receive this treatment in a dental clinic, medical clinic or even in a community setting such as at their school, or a community fair. Almost all dental insurance plans will cover the placement of fluoride varnish for young children. Medi-Cal/Denti-Cal will cover this treatment until the age of 21. If your child has private insurance, check with your provider for the cut-off age for this service. In the dental setting, your child can have fluoride varnish placed twice per year. At the medical office setting, your child can have fluoride varnish placed up to four times per year.

SEALANTS:

Sealants are a white or clear material that a dental provider can place onto the chewing surface of your child’s back teeth. Dental sealants create a barrier on the grooves of the back teeth. This barrier blocks out food and bacteria, keeping them from sitting on the chewing surface. This helps prevent the formation of cavities. This treatment is best for children from the age of 6 to 16-18 years of age. The placement of a dental sealant is quick and painless. Your child can receive this service at a dental clinic or in a community setting that has a mobile dental chair!

The dental provider will:

1)   Polish the tooth to clean off any bacteria or debris;

2)   A material called “etchant,” will be placed on the tooth for 30 seconds-1 minute – this material helps the sealant stick to the tooth;

3)   Rinse out the etchant with water;

4)   Dry the tooth;

5)   Place the sealant material onto the tooth; and

6)   Set the sealant material with a UV blue light.

The entire process takes about two to three minutes per tooth, and multiple teeth can be treated at the same time. After the sealant is placed, your child will be asked to practice biting. If the bite feels wrong, your dental provider may adjust the sealant material by flattening it out. Over time, the sealant material will naturally wear down, so your dental provider may suggest letting the natural wear occur rather than adjusting it at the dental clinic. Most insurances cover the full cost for the treatment to be placed on the adult molars (back teeth). Sometimes there are policy limitations for how frequently they can be placed or if they can be placed onto other adult teeth. Be sure to check your insurance provider to see if your child’s plan has any restrictions.

ANNUAL DENTAL VISITS:

The most important professional preventive service to utilize is a yearly dental exam.  An average dental exam for a child includes 2-6 x-rays taken, a dental cleaning, fluoride varnish application, and an exam performed by the dentist. At this visit, your dental provider will be able to perform preventive services and recommend additional visits you or your child might need. They will also be able to identify dental problems at an early stage, before it causes pain and discomfort for your child.  Medi-cal/Denti-cal will cover two dental exams per year for children up to the age of 21. Private insurances will also cover two dental exams per year for children, the child to adult cut-off age varies per insurance, so be sure to check with your insurance provider.

Our children need their teeth to speak clearly and to eat food to grow healthy and strong.  Be sure to keep up with yearly dental exams to help your child maintain a healthy life-long smile!

Oral Health is Important for Overall Health

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Many people don’t see the connection between oral health, overall health and where the two intersect. When we have physical aches and pains, feel symptoms of illness, generally feel unwell, or just need a preventive physical exam, we do not hesitate to see our medical providers. However, we often overlook the importance of a general dental check-up that consists of exam, x-rays, and other preventive treatments such as fluoride varnish and sealants until such time when tooth pain becomes unbearable. By then, the tooth decay may be so severe that the cost of dental treatments to save the tooth makes it unaffordable. Some people would rather extract (pull) the tooth than preserve it to avoid dental costs. It does not have to be this way.

Oral health and overall health are connected in many ways. Problems in your mouth can affect the rest of your body just as problems in your body can affect your mouth. It is important to be informed so you can make good decisions about your health – including your oral health.

Conditions that may be linked to oral health:

  • Endocarditis (inflammation of inner lining of your heart) – This occurs when bacteria or germs from other parts of your body (like your mouth) spreads through your bloodstream and damage areas in your heart.
  • Cardiovascular Disease – Heart disease such as clogged arteries and stroke might be linked to infections that oral bacteria can cause. It is thought that inflammation in the mouth cause inflammation in the blood vessels which increases the risk for heart disease.
  • Pregnancy and Birth – Periodontitis (inflammation of the tissue around the teeth) has been linked to prematurity and low birth weight.

Certain conditions that might affect your oral health:

  • Diabetes – Diabetes is a condition that results in poor control of blood sugar which reduces the body’s resistance to infection — putting the gums at risk. Gum disease are more frequent and severe among people who have diabetes. Research shows that people who have gum disease have a harder time controlling their blood sugar levels, and that regular periodontal care can improve diabetes control.
  • HIV/AIDS – Oral problems, such as painful mucosal lesions, are common in people who have HIV/AIDS.
  • Osteoporosis – Osteoporosis — a condition which causes bones to become weak and brittle — might be linked with periodontal bone loss and tooth loss especially in women. Drugs used to treat osteoporosis carry a small risk of damage to the bones of the jaw.
  • Alzheimer’s Disease — Oral health worsens as Alzheimer’s disease progresses.

There are also other conditions that might be linked to oral health, and because of these potential links, be sure to tell your dentist if you are taking any medications or have had changes in your overall health – including chronic conditions.

Nothing is better than your own set of natural teeth.  With regular preventive visits coupled with good oral hygiene and healthy habits, you can prevent tooth decay, keep your natural set of teeth and your beautiful smile for a very long time.  Your dental providers are here to help.