February’s best known holiday is Valentine’s Day. But our shortest month is also “National Children’s Dental Health Month.” Brought to you by the American Dental Association, this month-long national health observance brings together thousands of dedicated dental professionals, healthcare providers, and educators to promote the benefits of good oral health to children, their caregivers and teachers.
Each year, the ADA comes up with a theme for the month. Last year’s theme was the festive “Defeat Monster Mouth.” This year the theme is “Choose Tap Water for a Sparkling Smile.”
Why tap water? For dental professionals, the key issue is fluoride. Bottled water doesn’t contain the decay-preventing additive, and tap does.
According to the ADA “more than 70 years of scientific research has consistently shown that an optimal level of fluoride in community water is safe and effective in preventing tooth decay by at least 25% in both children and adults. Simply by drinking water, Americans can benefit from fluoride’s cavity protection whether they are at home, work or school.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named community water fluoridation one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.
But what about the purity of tap water? We’ve all heard about the horrors inflicted on the people of Flint, Michigan. That said, up to 50% of bottled water comes from the same source as tap water. And the stuff from your tap may be safer than the stuff in bottles.
An article in Scientific American notes that “Bottled water is regulated by the FDA, and tap water by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). The EPA has tighter restrictions and inspection regimens, while the FDA has a less stringent disclosure of consumer information. The FDA is not requiring disclosure of bottled water sources, treatment processes, and any contaminant reports. If your tap water source is public, however, the EPA is required to send an annual water quality report to its residents disclosing this information.”
The article also notes that “bottled water does not contain trace amounts of chlorine to help disinfect bacteria, as tap water does, and may remain on the shelf for months before consumed, giving bacteria the chance to grow.”
Teaching Kids How To Take Care of Their Teeth
We all know that it’s critical to take good care of our children’s Teeth, and teach them how to keep their smiles strong and beautiful. But any parent who has wearily tried to convince a toddler to brush their teeth for the recommended two minutes also knows, it can be hard to engage the little ones in their dental care chores. Sometimes we even wonder whether it’s worth all the fuss to care for teeth that will soon fall out and be replaced with a permanent set.
But those baby teeth matter. Experts say that if kids lose their teeth prematurely, their permanent teeth can come in crooked or otherwise compromised. Kids who have cavities in their baby teeth will almost certainly have decay in their permanent teeth.
Making Dental Care Fun
Kids can get excited about brushing if they understand the reasons behind caring for their teeth. But explaining these reasons carefully and reasonably often just doesn’t click with kids. Sometimes they need to prove it to themselves with activities like simple science experiments (not on their own teeth, of course!) And sometimes visual aids can capture a kid’s attention and transform him or her into a dedicated dental care advocate.
Thankfully, the internet is filled with oral health resources for children. Among the best that we found are:
The American Dental Association has a slew of free dental care goodies that parents, teachers and dentists can use to capture kids’ interest and educate them on proper dental care. There are activity sheets, lesson plans, information, puzzles and games.
The National Education Associate offers a great set of dental-oriented science experiments worksheets, which you can download here. Highlights include a dramatic demonstration of an acid attack on bones (which are rich in calcium, just like teeth) that can help kids to visualize what happens to their teeth when they consume sugary foods and beverages. Other experiments included in the set will convince kids of the magical powers of dental floss and fluoride.
Renaissance Dental offers a downloadable booklet of fun dental facts. A warning for the super- sensitive: a few of the facts may seem a little gross (especially to grownups). Here’s one:
“On a daily basis, your mouth is home to over 100,000,000 micro-creatures who are swimming, feeding, reproducing, and depositing waste in your mouth. Makes you want to brush your teeth, doesn’t it?”
Well … yes, it does, and it also makes me want to gargle with boiling water.
Other fun facts include:
- We use our teeth to bite and chew, but did you know dolphins only use their teeth to grasp? Dolphins can’t chew, because dolphins’ jaws have no muscles.
- Dental floss was first manufactured in 1882. If you floss once a day, you will use about 5 miles of floss over your lifetime! Dental floss isn’t just for teeth—a prison inmate in West Virginia braided floss into a rope, scaled the prison wall and escaped.
- If you brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes each time, you will brush your teeth for about 24 hours each year, or 76 days over the course of your life! All this brushing will use about 20 gallons of toothpaste.
Teachers and parents will also find a wealth of educational resources at Cavity Free Kids, The Children’s Healthy Smile Project, and – especially for kids with special needs, Family Voices.