Smile! February is children#039;s dental health month

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 14, 2003

For South Point dentist Hal Jeter it is never too early to emphasize the importance of a bright, healthy smile, and no time is better to start than February.

The American Dental Association recognizes February as National Children's Dental Health Month. Jeter and his assistants are taking part by starting young by visiting area head starts to raise awareness and help children get over the fear of the dentist's office.

"There was an Ohio Department of Health study in 2000 that determined dental care was the number one unmet health need in Ohio," Jeter said. "A Surgeon General's release said that untreated dental diseases is the most prevalent chronic illness in childhood. This is definitely born out by what dentists in Lawrence County are seeing."

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Charlene Casto, dental assistant at Dr. Hal Jeter's office in South Point, visited the Sybene Head Start Wednesday to educate the children and help them get more comfortable.

"The kids love it," she said. "We have a little stuffed animal with big teeth we use to show them how to properly brush and what to expect when they come to the dentist."

Casto said they have found that students exposed like this at a young age are much more relaxed when they visit later.

One of the biggest myths about dental care is that children do not need to take care of their baby teeth because they are just going to fall out. This is not true and untreated dental disease and infection can be very harmful and has been documented as a cause of death, he said.

Jeter, who has been practicing in South Point for 7 years, said he would treat children at any age if there was a need and hopes to see overall dental care improve.

"Nationwide, you hear that dental cases are on the downswing," he said. "But here in Lawrence County care has not gotten worse but it certainly ahs not gotten better."

Throughout the rest of February they will continue this program. Casto will return to the Sybene Head Start next week. She will visit a daycare in Huntington and children from the Andis Head Start will visit the office later this month.

Employees at several other local dentists' offices said they did not have anything planned at this point but may make arrangement if area schools contacted them.