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Keeping children smiling bright and cavity free

By Cpl. Julie A. Paynter | | February 14, 2003

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February is Children's Dental Health Month and to celebrate, Sailors from the 23rd Dental Company educated kids on proper dental hygiene.

Dentalman Stefanie Freeman and Dental Technician 3rd Class Virginia Davis, both of the 23rd Dental Company, explained how to keep kids' pearly whites healthy during their visit to the Combat Center New Horizons Child Development Center.

Although the dental company staff suggests children receive their first check-up at age three, Davis stressed the importance of parents cleaning their children's teeth as soon as they begin cutting through the gums.

"Even babies produce plaque," explained Davis.  "After your baby's bath, try wiping his teeth with a wash cloth.  If your baby or young child is used to going to sleep with a sippy cup or bottle, try to give them water instead of juice or milk or simply take the bottle out of their mouth once they are asleep to prevent tooth decay."

At 18 months, Davis suggests introducing brushing by giving the child a mini-toothbrush with a cartoon character and by letting the toddler bite on the toothbrush.

"Believe it or not, biting on a toothbrush does loosen things up," said Davis.  "And gets the toddler used to using a toothbrush."

For children under three or unable to properly brush by themselves, Davis recommends parents dilute all juice drinks with water to lessen the amount of sugar coming in contact with their teeth.

Food choices also can help or hurt healthy teeth.  According to Davis, anything that sticks to teeth makes for unhealthy teeth.  Food like peanut butter, raisins and gummy fruit snacks sticks to the teeth and creates plaque.  Crisp or hard food like fruits and vegetables help remove plaque.

Later in February, Freeman and Davis plan to visit children in local elementary and middle schools and go more in-depth regarding the healthy habits of hygiene, including flossing and the dangers of tobacco. They educate about the dangers of tobacco products by explaining the dental reasoning behind not using tobacco and by showing models of what tobacco does to a user's mouth and teeth.

"Believe it or not, there are kids as young as the fourth grade that have tried tobacco," said Davis.  She explained that last year at least one or two children from each fourth-grade class raised a hand when asked about trying tobacco.

Dental hygiene is another reason to stay away from tobacco products, to consume less sugary drinks and sweets and to eat more fruits and vegetables, according to Davis, and makes for healthier kids.

Freeman and Davis will continue visiting various schools in the Morongo Basin for the month of February to further educate students on the benefits of proper hygiene.

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