February is Children’s Dental Health Month, and this year’s theme for the American Dental Association’s campaign is focused on healthy oral health habits for kids, including brushing twice a day with fluoridated tap water.

San Juan Basin Public Health’s Regional Oral Health Specialist Kari Plante has provided dental health services to thousands of local children through her work in local schools and has seen first-hand the importance of developing good oral health habits at a young age.

“Children’s teeth are meant to last a lifetime, and a healthy smile is important to a child’s self-esteem,” Plante says. “With proper care, a balanced diet and regular dental visits, their teeth can remain healthy and strong.”

The mouth is the gateway to a person’s overall health, and an unhealthy mouth can be associated with obesity, diabetes and even heart disease. Studies have shown that children with poorer oral health were more likely to experience dental pain, miss school and perform poorly in school. An estimated 51 million school hours are lost each year to dental-related illness. These findings suggest that improving children’s oral health can be a way to enhancing their educational experience. Additionally, while dental disease affects all children, it disproportionately affects children from low-income families and minorities, who often experience barriers to accessing dental care.

The campaign for this year’s Children’s Dental Health Month highlights reminders for parents, caregivers, teachers and health care providers to share with children to create healthy dental habits including;

  • Brushing for two minutes, two times a day with fluoridated tap water.
  • Cleaning between teeth daily.
  • Limiting snacks and eating healthy meals.
  • Visiting a dentist regularly.

This year’s focus on brushing with tap water emphasizes the benefits of fluoride in community water sources. Fluoride in water is the most efficient way to prevent tooth decay in children, especially for those who have limited access to dental care. All kids deserve equal access to this tool in the cavity-prevention toolbox. Without fluoride in our municipal water, frequent brushings, dental visits and diet are what we’re left with. This may sound like enough to aid in tooth decay prevention, but unfortunately, not all children in our community have access to healthy foods, nutrition education or can afford dental appointments.

Clearly, this is a community that cares about kids. Yet, tooth decay remains the most common chronic disease of childhood. Let’s help our local children reach their highest potential of health by helping them develop healthy dental habits. Also, please join San Juan Basin Public Health and numerous other organizations, doctors, dentists and community member in supporting community water fluoridation in Durango for the benefit of all children.