In the spirit of National Children’s Dental Health Month, San Juan Basin Public Health is offering free dental screenings and fluoride varnishes for any child age one to five years. Kari Plante, RDH, Regional Oral Health Specialist, will be available for walk-in dental appointments at San Juan Basin Public Health offices on Mar. 5, Apr. 2, and May 7 in Durango (281 Sawyer Dr.), and Mar. 19, Apr. 23, and May 21 in Pagosa Springs (502 S. 8th St.).

Walk-ins are welcome 8 a.m. to noon and 1 – 3 p.m., and children must be accompanied by an adult.

The American Dental Association recommends kids get an oral screening by the age of one. If your baby has teeth, he or she can get cavities. It is important for you and your child to get an early start on dental care and begin good habits at a young age to prevent damage and decay later in life.

Treating cavities is important, but preventing cavities is best. Your mouth contains bacteria that feed on the sugars in the foods we eat and the beverages we drink. This produces acid that can wear away the hard, outer shell of your tooth (enamel) and can lead to cavities.

Fluoride is a great way to protect teeth by making them stronger and more resistant to acid. It not only reduces the risk of cavities, it can even help reverse early signs of decay. Most toothpaste contains fluoride, but it’s important we ingest fluoride as well as receive it topically. Dentists can apply fluoride varnishes, and fluoridated tap water also prevents cavities. Due to its success in preventing cavities, adding fluoride to tap water was named a top public health achievement in the 20th century.

All children ages 1-5 enrolled in the local Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program or on Medicaid are eligible for a free dental screening and fluoride varnish, either during their WIC appointment, or at any other day and time listed above.  Make sure to mention the dental screening at the front desk when you come in for your appointment.