From the Harford County Health Department:
The Harford County Health Department reminds the public that February marks the national and local celebration of Children’s Dental Health Month. Coinciding with Valentine’s Day, it is a perfect opportunity to use a new educational bulletin board downloadable from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Office of Oral Health website titled, “Love That Smile.” The free bulletin board, http://phpa.dhmh.maryland.gov/oralhealth, highlights proven ways to prevent tooth decay including proper brushing and flossing, oral injury prevention, nutrition, and the importance of fluoride and sealants.
Harford County Health Officer, Susan Kelly, states, “Tooth decay is five times more common than asthma in children and cavities can cause children pain and serious health problems. Fortunately, it’s preventable. A healthy mouth is important for overall health. Poor oral health in childhood can cause problems with eating, speaking, and learning. Each year, more than 51 million school hours nationally are missed due to dental problems.”
The Health Department’s Dental Clinic, located at 2204 Hanson Road in the Edgewood Plaza Shopping Center in Edgewood, provides dental care to children ages 1 – 20 who are enrolled in the Maryland Children’s Health Program (MCHP) and to pregnant women on MCHP. The Dental Program also has expanded its outreach efforts to include a school-based dental screening program in all Harford County Public School pre-kindergarten classes and Title One schools (Pre-K, K, and 3rd grades) and provides a similar program in all Harford County Health Department Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) sites in Edgewood, Aberdeen, and Elkton. In addition, it hopes to expand its outreach programs to day care providers and children, and to create a school-based Dental Sealant Program in the coming years. During the 2013 pilot year of the school-based dental screening program, 501 dental screenings of pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and third grade students were conducted and 457 fluoride varnish treatments were applied. This program was supported by a grant from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Office of Oral Health.
Says Katy Battani, RDH, MS, Dental Outreach Coordinator for the Harford County Health Department, “The purposes of these programs are to (1) educate parents and children on the importance of oral health and nutrition, (2) identify dental issues that may require treatment and apply fluoride varnish to assist in preventing dental cavities, (3) refer children to a dentist for care as needed, and (4) provide follow-up to ensure that children with urgent dental needs receive necessary care.”
The Maryland Office of Oral Health website http://phpa.dhmh.maryland.gov/oralhealth allows visitors to test their dental knowledge by playing the “Million Dollar Smile” and “Dental Jeopardy, Elementary and Advanced Edition” games. The website provides links to additional health education materials including a request form for ordering bulk quantities as well as assistance in obtaining children’s Medicaid dental health insurance (Maryland Healthy Smiles Dental program) and finding public dental services.
Ms. Battani also offers these tips for preventing tooth decay in children:
• Schedule a child’s first dental visit when his or her first tooth appears, or by the first birthday.
• Provide children with healthy snacks such as fruits and vegetables, and avoid sugary foods and drinks. Give them water to drink between meals.
• Brush your child’s teeth with toothpaste that has fluoride at least twice a day for two minutes. The amount of toothpaste that goes on the toothbrush depends on the child’s age. Children need brushing supervision until seven to eight years of age.
• Ask your child’s dentist about the need for fluoride treatment.
• Your drinking water can be tested to determine if the amount of fluoride it contains is too low to prevent tooth decay. If so, ask your dentist or physician about fluoride tablets or drops.
• Ask about dental sealants when your child’s back permanent teeth first come in.
Other dental health websites recommended by the health department include:
• www.healthyteethhealthykids.org/ – Maryland Dental Action Coalition
• www.mouthhealthykids.org – American Dental Association
• www.mouthhealthy.org – American Dental Association
• www.mchoralhealth.org – Maternal & Child Health Oral Health Resource Center
For more information about Harford County’s public health dental clinic or to schedule an appointment, please call (443) 922-7670. Additional information on childhood dental health can be obtained by visiting www.harfordcountyhealth.com or www.fha.state.md.us/oralhealth/.