All kids truly deserve to smile

Published 9:43 am Thursday, February 14, 2013

February is a great month for a variety of reasons.

For some, just to be past January and halfway out of winter sparks an encouraging reminder that sooner or later spring will actually come. Others, (especially those in the greeting card, flower, and candy industries) see Valentine’s Day as a hopeful spike in their quarterly earnings. Ash Wednesday, President’s Day, Mardi Gras. All have their significance to various groups making up our multifaceted society.

For us in the dental community, this month represents the spearhead of our efforts in diagnosing and treating oral disease. National Children’s Dental Health Month (NCDHM) is sponsored each February by the American Dental Association (ADA) and its over 157,000 member dentists in hopes of raising awareness that good oral health is vital to everyone, especially kids.

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The emphasis on children’s dental care is well justified when you consider the following:

> Dental disease is the No. 1 unmet healthcare need in the state of Ohio.

> Dental decay is the most prevalent childhood disease, five times more common than asthma. In other words, nearly half of all children in the United States, aged 2 to 9, have untreated cavities and other dental needs.

> Approximately 51 million school hours are lost each year due to the pain and infection associated with dental decay.

While we as oral health care providers strive year round to treat the disease, teach good oral hygiene and healthy eating habits, and educate parents we still have a long way to go.

Part of that process includes the various activities associated with NCDHM, especially one that celebrates its 10th anniversary this year: “Give Kids A Smile!”

Throughout the month of February (and beyond) thousands of ADA member dentists along with assistants, hygienists, and other volunteers will give time and resources to targeting at-risk kids and providing some needed dental treatment.

Last year approximately 14,000 Ohio children received treatment through “GKAS!” volunteer events.

As I stated, however, activities like “Give Kids A Smile!” are only a small part of addressing the problem.

Preventing dental disease begins at home and actually before birth. Good prenatal care should include good dental habits, including any necessary treatment as research continues to draw associations between oral disease in the mother and harmful effects on the baby. After birth it is essential to start cleaning a baby’s teeth as soon as they appear in the mouth.

And, foods and drinks containing sugar should be kept to a minimum and at that, only given at meals and not as a snack.

Finally, I encourage all parents to discuss with their pediatrician and dentist any questions or anything that you notice that may be abnormal in your child’s mouth.

To quote the adage: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Let’s work toward stopping the problems in our children before they start because … all kids deserve to smile.


Hal S. Jeter, DDS is a South Point-based dentist and president of the Southern Ohio Dental Society.