You probably know that teeth are important for chewing and eating. But, do you know they are also important for talking and smiling? That’s what the staff at Smile Station Pediatric Dentistry teaches children throughout the year, but especially in February. Why? Because February is National Children’s Dental Health Month.

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), National Children’s Dental Health observances began in Ohio in 1941. Since then, the concept has grown into a nationwide program that has extended to a month-long celebration now known as National Children’s Dental Health Month (NCDHM). NCDHM messages reach millions of people across the U.S. and at numerous armed service bases. Local observances include various contests, health fairs, free dental screenings, classroom presentations and dental office tours.

“Attitudes and habits established at an early age are critical in maintaining good oral health throughout life,” the ADA says. Dr. Bryan Hohenstein, one of the dentists at Smile Station, agrees. The staff at Smile Station talks with about 3,000 young kids at daycares and schools during the month of February. “One of the big things we talk about is why it’s so important to take care of your teeth,” Dr. Hohenstein said. “When most kids realize that, it’s like a light bulb comes on.”

“It’s important for preschool and early school-age kids to get a good foundation,” Dr. Hohenstein said. “We tell kids ‘if you brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes both times, and floss, you’re probably going to have pretty strong, healthy teeth your whole lifetime.’”

Eating healthy snacks and other food is also important, Dr. Hohenstein added. When the staff talks with kids, they show them different types of foods and talk about what’s healthy and what’s not. “For example, we show them a glass of juice and talk about how juice seems healthy, but there’s quite a bit of sugar in it and sugar can cause cavities,” Dr. Hohenstein said. “We also show them a 20-ounce bottle of a certain soft drink and let them know it contains 19 teaspoons of sugar. We show them that that amount of sugar fills a glass about half full. The kids – and their teachers – are really surprised by that.”

Dr. Hohenstein also recommends that kids use a fluoride toothpaste. “Fluoride is the only thing that can help repair early stages of tooth decay and strengthen the tooth’s enamel.” He added that kids should see a dentist regularly, starting when they are 1 year old. “So much can be caught early, which makes things so much easier. “

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