dental 4Each February the American Dental Association sponsors National Children’s Dental Health Month. This month is a perfect opportunity for the Kentucky Oral Health Coalition, a project of Kentucky Youth Advocates, to share some information on children’s oral health, specifically around nutrition, dental sealants, fluoride varnish, and services for children with special needs. We will highlight one of these topics each week in February. We hope to pass on valuable information for parents and those who care for young children. Please forward to parents or caregivers that you know!

Nutrition:  As you know, food fuels your body and if you eat junk, you will eventually feel like junk. Children have little control over what they eat and must rely on their parents to make healthy choices when it comes to meal planning and snacks. Parents need to be informed about what foods and snacks are appropriate for children. The packaging on a box of cereal or snacks may feature your child’s favorite cartoon character and appear “kid friendly.” However, this can be misleading and doesn’t mean it has the appropriate nutrition to meet a growing child’s needs. The selection at grocery stores can be overwhelming, and having kids in tow can sometimes make shopping a big challenge. Parents can be tempted to give into their child’s demands to avoid the dreaded grocery store meltdown.  It’s important to remember that the eating habits your child develops now will stick with them for the rest of their life. The earlier you start the easier it will be, but at the same time it’s never too late to start eating healthy. Look at last week’s Facebook and Twitter posts from the Kentucky Oral Health Coalition to learn more about snacking habits, sugar content, the healthy eating plate, and how to deal with picky eaters. Remember, good nutrition is the first step in improving oral health and overall health.

Dental Sealants and Fluoride Varnish:  Dental sealants protect children’s teeth from decay by bonding to the deep pits and grooves in the molars. Food becomes trapped in these areas, and they are too small for a toothbrush to reach. This will eventually cause the tooth to decay and a cavity to form. Fluoride varnish is another topic parents sometimes know little about. Fluoride varnish is painted onto the patient’s teeth by a dental hygienist and works by hardening the enamel. The process takes only a few minutes and can be very beneficial for a child that is at high risk of tooth decay. Several schools in Kentucky have dental sealant and fluoride varnish programs available to the students; however, these services can also be done in a dental home. Check out the Facebook and Twitter posts this week where we will talk about the benefits of dental sealants and fluoride varnish and videos that show each.

Services for Children with Special Needs:  The 2009-2010 National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs reported that, at the time of the survey, one out of every five of Kentucky’s children had special health care needs. About half of these Kentucky children with special health care needs live in poverty. Children with special health care needs could include children with attention – deficit/hyperactivity disorders, blindness or low vision, brain injuries, deaf/hard-of-hearing, learning disabilities, medical disabilities, physical disabilities, psychiatric disabilities, and speech and language disabilities. Oftentimes, adjustments must be made by providers to accommodate children with special needs. It’s important that the parent, dentist, and dental staff establish a relationship so that the child can have the most positive experience possible. Children with special needs deserve every chance at optimal oral health. Check out our Facebook and Twitter posts and read our blog at the end of the month to find out more about this.

Don’t forget to “like” Kentucky Oral Health Coalition on Facebook and “follow” us on Twitter @KyOralHealth and check out the #DentalIsFundamental hashtag to get the information on all of these topics and much more.