By Cortney Downs, Kentucky Youth Advocates intern

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month! What started as a one-day event in Cleveland, Ohio in 1941 has evolved into a month-long celebration! This year’s slogan is “Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste and clean between your teeth for a healthy smile.”

Did you know that not flossing causes you to miss cleaning 40% of your tooth surfaces? Or that poor dental health can negatively impact children’s speech, growth, social development, and lead to more missed days in school? In 2016, Delta Dental of Kentucky conducted the Making Smiles Happen  statewide dental health study of children between grades three and six across Kentucky. The findings showed an increased need for early and urgent dental care, especially among children in the Eastern region of the state. Additionally, the study found that children who receive free or reduced lunch were more likely to experience poor dental health: toothaches; more infrequent dentist visits, if at all; and untreated tooth decay.

National Children’s Dental Health Month is an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of developing healthy dental habits early, and to advocate for those in greatest need.

To help you get started, the American Dental Association came up with seven ways to make brushing more fun for kids! Activities include playing one of your child’s favorite songs for two minutes while they’re brushing twice a day, or letting them shop for their own toothbrush and toothpaste. They’ve also created fun activity sheets, including crossword puzzles and calendars to help kids keep track of their brushing habits, available in both English and Spanish.

If you’re interested in advocacy-based information and resources, the Kentucky Oral Health Coalition has a comprehensive list on their website, as well as a calendar of local dental health events for you to attend. The American Dental Association also shares free online tools and resources for consumers and advocates looking to promote the importance of good dental health, not just during National Children’s Dental Health Month, but all year long.