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Fight tooth decay with regular checkups and brushing

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February 22, 2017

Contact:  Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936

                Chuck Council, Communications Specialist, DPHHS, (406) 444-4391

Health officials: Fight tooth decay with regular checkups and brushing for two minutes, twice a day


Department of Public Health and Human Services officials are highlighting the importance of preventing children’s tooth decay, and offering several important tips for parents.

Health officials say one of the most important messages for parents is to ensure their child begins to form lifelong habits early.

“The good news is that tooth decay is preventable,” said Tonette Hollingsworth, DPHHS Oral Health Program Coordinator. “It’s so important that children get in the habit early in life of brushing their teeth regularly to avoid complications later.”

February is Children’s Dental Health Month.

Hollingsworth stresses that children should brush their teeth for two minutes, twice a day and is urging parents to make sure their child has regular dental check-ups.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number one chronic disease among children is tooth decay, Hollingsworth said. In Montana, 2 out of 3 children (65 percent) of children in Montana have at least one cavity by third grade, compared to the national rate of 52 percent.

In addition, almost one-in-four third grade children in Montana (24%) had untreated decay, which nearly mirrors the national average of 23%. Untreated decay describes dental cavities or tooth decay that have not received the appropriate treatment.

Left untreated, tooth decay can have serious consequences, including needless pain and suffering, difficulty chewing (which compromises children’s nutrition and can slow their development), difficulty speaking and lost days in school.

Hollingsworth said the prevention begins even before a baby is born. She said that evidence shows that oral health care during pregnancy for women is safe and recommended to reduce the bad bacteria that can be passed from the mother to child, improving dental and overall health. 

“Prevention starts during pregnancy, and then just continues from there,” Hollingsworth said. “During pregnancy, mothers should seek regular preventive dental care to reduce the risk of infecting their baby with decay-causing germs.”

Hollingsworth offers these parental tips to help children keep their teeth healthy and strong.

Start early

·         During pregnancy, prepare for your baby by seeking dental care to reduce the risk of infecting your baby with decay-causing germs.

·         After your baby is born, begin wiping or brushing baby gums and teeth.

·         Children should see a dentist by age 1.

·         Do not share utensils or put a baby's pacifier in your mouth. You could be sharing decay-causing germs.

Stay healthy by:

·         Brush twice a day, especially before bedtime, for 2 minutes.

·         Use toothpaste that contains fluoride.

·         Choose a toothbrush with soft bristles.

·         Floss daily to clean in between teeth, where your brush does not reach.

·         Replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months, bent bristles are not effective at cleaning.

·         Don't share toothbrushes to prevent sharing the germs that cause decay.

·         Regular dental check-ups help detect problems early and reduce the cost of dental care.

·         Eat a healthy diet and reduce the amount and frequency of sugary beverages.

Hollingsworth also emphasizes to parents the importance of making sure a child receives adequate fluoride during early childhood to prevent tooth decay by using a smear of fluoride toothpaste during brushing, drinking tap water, and asking about fluoride during medical and dental visits.  Fluoride helps protect teeth from tooth decay and can be applied by dental or medical providers during early childhood to promote prevention.

To keep informed about this and other public health topics, consider subscribing to DPHHS Health in the 406 messages by going to www.healthinthe406.mt.gov

February message – Health in the 406 – Focus on Oral Health

·         Choose tap water over sugar sweetened beverages for a sparkling smile.

·         Brushing teeth for two minutes, twice a day and regular dental check-ups are key for healthy teeth and gums.

·         Fluoride helps make teeth stronger, which prevents decay.