February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. This special observance started as a one-day event in 1941 in Cleveland, Ohio, to raise public awareness about the importance of oral health. By 1949, the American Dental Association (ADA) held its first national Children’s Dental Health Day on Feb. 8. The local festivities included school essay and poster contests, health fairs, free dental screenings, presentations, and various activities to stimulate children’s interests about dental health. Soon the special day affair became a week-long event in 1955, and in 1981 became a month-long observation known today as National Children’s Dental Health Month.

The key to children’s motivation for oral or dental health is to make it fun. Every year the American Dental Association creates a slogan to encourage children to participate in the campaign. This year’s slogan, “Get a Gold Medal Smile,” is geared towards creating a positive attitude towards brushing and flossing twice a day, eating the right foods and limiting snacks, wearing sports mouth guards, and visiting the dentist regularly. The campaign has always stressed early dental education and prevention to ensure proper oral care habits long-term.

For children pre-school and younger, the campaign is geared towards parental education. Baby oral health begins as soon as the child is born by cleaning the baby’s gums with a soft cloth daily. Then, after the first teeth are erupted, parents are reminded to clean the baby’s teeth with a soft toothbrush and water, and are urged to not have the baby sleep with a bottle. As soon as the teeth appear, it is time to see the dentist. It is never too early to start the child on a path of healthy oral and dental care.

The ADA has informational aids on its website including posters, fun activity sheets, and “Gold Medal Smile” certificates to help with education for you and your family: www. ADA.org.

Dr. Rashmi (Rush) Bhatnagar, DMD, MPH, can be contacted at (480) 598-5900 or visit www.BellaVistaDentalCare.com.

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