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National Children's Dental Health Month: DHEC wants your child to have a healthy smile!


February 8, 2017

National Children's Dental Health Month:
DHEC wants your child to have a healthy smile!

COLUMBIA - Reports show some children are missing hours of school each year due to oral health problems, causing them to miss out on critical instruction time. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is encouraging parents to turn their little ones into scholars by helping them brush up on their oral health habits.

February is National Children's Dental Health Month and this year's theme is "Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste and clean between your teeth for a healthy smile."

Although it's preventable, tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in children. When left untreated, tooth decay can cause pain and infections that can lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing, and learning.

DHEC encourages parents to support good habits at home like brushing teeth twice a day for two minutes and visiting the dentist regularly, so children can have healthy teeth and gums for a lifetime. DHEC's Division of Oral Health collaborates with the S.C. Dental Association and the Columbia Marionette Theater to support a traveling puppet show called "Flora and Floppy go to the Dentist." This interactive show teaches children what they need to do to have healthy smiles. Some of the key messages in the puppet show are brushing and flossing, going to the dentist, drinking water with fluoride, getting dental sealants, and eating healthy foods.

"The Flora and Floppy puppet show have been able to reach over 43,000 children in schools and Head Start centers across the state with a positive oral health message since it began in 2007," said Dr. Ray LaLa, director of the Division of Oral Health at DHEC.

Even though tooth decay has been on the decline for the past 30 years, it is still prevalent in children ages 6 to 19. South Carolina's Oral Health Needs Assessment in 2012 showed a decline in untreated decay, but over 40 percent of the students screened had some form of decay experience. Consistent preventive messages and behaviors, and public health interventions such as community water fluoridation can go a long way to improve the oral health status of children in South Carolina.

Here are some useful tips for parents and caregivers to help protect their children from future dental issues.

  • Oral care begins with wiping out the mouths of infants with a soft cloth even before the first tooth arrives.
  • Once teeth arrive, brush your child's teeth with fluoridated toothpaste twice a day for two minutes. Children under age 3 should use a smear of toothpaste, and children over age 3 should use a pea-sized amount.
  • Children should be supervised when brushing their teeth until age 6-8.
  • Children should visit the dentist regularly beginning at age 1.
  • Talk to your pediatrician, family doctor, nurse, or dentist about putting fluoride varnish on your child's teeth as soon as the first tooth appears in the mouth.
  • Limit sugary snacks and drinks.
  • Ask your child's dentist about dental sealants. Sealants protect teeth from decay.
  • Have your child drink tap water that contains fluoride. If you have well water, you can contact your water utility company and request a copy of the utility's most recent "Consumer Confidence Report." This report provides information on the level of fluoride in your drinking (tap) water.
A healthy mouth is an important part of overall health. To learn more about Children's Dental Health Month, please visit


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