Dental Health: Stuttgart clinic team helps students brush up on oral health know-how
Capt. Martha Mitchell, a dentist at the USAG Stuttgart Dental Clinic, examines 7-year-old Parker Weedon's teeth during a visit to his second-grade classroom at Robinson Barracks Elementary School Feb. 10.

STUTTGART, Germany -- Brushing teeth isn't just about good hygiene.

It's about confidence, according to U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart dental employees.

That's why a team from the Stuttgart Dental Clinic traveled to every garrison school this month as part of the National Children's Dental Health Month. During the visits, children in kindergarten through fifth grade were individually screened and learned how - and why - they should brush their teeth properly.

"These kids are very aware of their smiles, and [we] want to teach them to protect them as they're growing," said Capt. Martha Mitchell, one of the clinic's dentists, while screening students at Robinson Barracks Elementary School Feb. 10.

"You can do damage to your gums and your teeth if you're not brushing and flossing correctly," she said.

The dental team demonstrated the most effective way to brush on a giant model of a tooth.

Jaylen Taylor, 7, finished her screening with a new appreciation for her healthy teeth.

"I hope I never have a cavity," she said.

Unfortunately, cavities are quick to spring up in a children's mouths if they have a high sugar intake or don't brush their teeth correctly and enough times per day, Mitchell said.

"It doesn't have to be just sugar; it can be potato chips. If you don't get that stuff off, it can be debilitating," said Mitchell.

This is why the clinic performs the screenings: to catch any visible problems and notify parents if their child needs to be seen at the clinic, in addition to the recommended yearly check-up. As military family members, children are seen at the clinic on a "space available" basis, after active duty service members.

"[The screening] is a good tool because a lot of times, parents might not be aware of what is going on in their child's mouth," Mitchell said.

Flouride intake is another topic that children and parents overseas especially need to be aware of, Mitchell said, since tap water off-base has no fluoride in it. She suggested either drinking tap water on a military installation (which does have fluoride) or buying bottled water with fluoride.

"Appropriate flouride intake levels vary for different individuals, so it is important to ask your dentist before starting a flouride regimen," she said.

While Mitchell and the other dentists at the clinic can help fill cavities and clean teeth, the best way for children to protect their teeth is by practicing good oral hygiene themselves, she reminded RB students.

"We want to teach you guys good enough habits that you can teach your parents how to brush their teeth," she said.

Page last updated Mon February 22nd, 2010 at 10:01