Living Columns & Blogs

Ensure healthy smiles by teaching kids about dental health

Did you know that February is National Children’s Dental Health Month?

The observance brings attention to the importance of healthy smiles and healthy mouths for children.

According to the Children’s Dental Health Project, a nonprofit advancing children’s oral health:

▪ Roughly 1 in 7 children ages 6-12 had suffered a toothache in the previous six months.

▪ Children with poor oral health were nearly three times more likely to miss school due to dental pain.

▪ Children reporting recent toothaches were four times more likely to have a lower GPA than their peers without dental pain.

▪ Prevention pays off. The average cost of applying a dental sealant to a child’s permanent teeth — a practice that reduces the risk of decay — is roughly one-third the cost of filling a cavity.

While tooth decay is the No. 1 chronic illness in children, the good news is that it is entirely preventable. Parents, grandparents, teachers and caregivers can all affect a child’s lifelong oral health, indeed lifelong health, by supporting good oral health habits.

Help the child in your life brush his or her teeth twice daily for two minutes, making sure the child brushes back and front teeth and tongue. Consider listening to a favorite song to ensure the two-minute time limit is met and make the task fun.

It is also important for children to floss their teeth daily. Create a sticker chart that kids can mark off when they floss, listen to a song with a beat to help children find the rhythm of flossing or use flossing as a way to help children with counting — children have 20 teeth; have kids count their teeth while they floss.

Be sure to talk with your child about the importance of a healthy mouth by sharing that teeth help us to chew our food, are important to our ability to talk and that our mouth is the gateway to our body’s good health. Encourage children to eat healthy by picking low-sugar snacks, drinking skim milk or water instead of sugary drinks and, if chewing gum, selecting sugarless gum. Sugar is a major cause of tooth decay and contributes to other health issues, such as obesity and diabetes.

And lastly, encourage children to participate in the second annual Children National Dental Health Poster Contest sponsored by the Centre County Dental Task Force. This year’s theme is “Two minutes twice a day!”

The task force is pleased to announce the expansion of the contest to include two divisions; any student in third through eighth grade in a Centre County school — public, private, charter or home school attendees — can participate. For contest rules and more information, please visit or email The site also provides information and education programs parents, caregivers and teachers might find useful.

Thank you for helping us to ensure a generation of children have healthy smiles, healthy mouths and lifelong oral health.

Cheryl White is the executive director at Centre Volunteers in Medicine.