As February begins, stores across the country are filled with all things pink, red, and chocolate. Large stuffed animals and cards line the aisles. For dental professionals, February has an equally important occasion to celebrate. Each year, February is recognized as National Children’s Dental Health Month.
Sponsored by the American Dental Association, this month of oral health promotion first began in 1941 and has grown into a month-long national promotion of healthy mouths for children. Instead of focusing on underprivileged children alone, as some children’s dental health promotions do, this month focuses on the oral health education of all children across the country.3 Oral health-educated children turn into oral health-conscious adults.
Each year, the month is celebrated and promoted through health fairs, business advertising, and oral health presentations. Many dental companies provide products to assist dental professionals and child educators in the promotion of children’s dental health. From oral hygiene kits to posters, a plethora of resources are available to help ensure the success of the month.3
Messaging is Still Important
As dental professionals, it is important that we realize the impact that we can make through campaigns like this. It is easy to think that with modern technology all parents have the information they need to teach their children good oral health habits. However, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), dental caries is still one of the most common diseases among children.2 While recent CDC publications have shown a decrease in the caries rate of children ages 2 to 19, research still shows 43% of children ages 2 to 19 had dental caries.1
This rate reinforces that a high percentage of the population of children struggle with dental health issues. The promotion of good dental health practices plays a key role in educating both children and their parents.
Generation to Generation
National Children’s Dental Health Month is particularly important to me as I have seen firsthand the impact these presentations and promotions can make. You might even say my love for dentistry was born out of the lessons taught and passed down from Children’s Dental Health Month experiences. When I first began dental hygiene school, my mother and grandmother both recounted to me their experiences with oral health presentations as children.
My grandmother laughed as she told me about the dentist passing out disclosing solutions for the children to see the plaque on their teeth. My mother remembered the dental professional at her school, showing them tailored brushing techniques, including making “big circles” with their toothbrushes. She smirked as she recalled a dental campaign in her childhood where a song about a “Yuck Mouth” was sung.4 She remembered every word!
The lessons that they learned in these presentations were passed on to me, and I have experiences like that to thank for the oral health habits that were taught to me as a child. It is inspiring to see that one presentation when a child is five to 10 years old can leave an impact that spans decades. Hearing these stories inspires me to strive to be the dental professional children remember.
Get Involved in the Celebration
As National Children’s Dental Health Month approaches, dental professionals should be focusing on what we can do to promote the campaign and ensure its success. Each year, the American Dental Association designates a theme for the occasion, with this year’s theme being “Fluoride in water prevents cavities! Get it from the tap!”
In 2020, we are celebrating the impact of community water fluoridation while striving to promote additional good oral health practices in children.3
Whether you choose to promote National Children’s Dental Health Month by giving school presentations, promoting the campaign on social media, or donating to children’s dental causes, I hope we all strive to use our educations to educate those around us. Even the smallest contribution can make a big impact in the life of a child.
Now Listen to the Today’s RDH Dental Hygiene Podcast Below:
- CDC: Minorities Still Most at Risk for Caries. American Dental Association. April 19, 2018. Retrieved from www.ada.org/en/publications/ada-news/2018-archive/april/cdc-minorities-still-most-at-risk-for-caries
- Children’s Oral Health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. May 14, 2019. Retrieved from www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/basics/childrens-oral-health/index.html
- February Is National Children’s Dental Health Month. American Dental Association. Retrieved from www.ada.org/en/public-programs/national-childrens-dental-health-month
- ABC Yuck Mouth Commercial. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/_gqeYPlVTCE