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A set of simulated healthy teeth (left) sit next to "Mr. Gross Mouth" to show how neglecting dental hygiene can affect someone's smile. The Fort Sill Dental Activity team is visiting the child care centers on post to teach children how to keep their smiles healthy for the rest of their lives as part of National Children's Dental Health Month.

FORT SILL, Okla.-- Open wide for National Children's Dental Health Month. The American Dental Association has strategically deemed the month of sweets the month to also make sure those sugary treats don't do any permanent damage to children's teeth.

Fort Sill's dentists are spreading the word by visiting child care facilities on post with the message "A healthy smile' It's easy to find."

They'll be going over the basics of fighting cavities with one simple strategy: prevention. And the best tool a child, or adult, can be equipped with is their toothbrush.

"Brushing is easy. It doesn't take that much time and you can even brush while you watch TV, so why not do it'" asked Capt. Hanane Seaton, Fort Sill DENTAC dentist.

She said brushing twice a day and flossing at least once is essential for pearly whites. She and her team of dentists want to make sure it's a lesson that makes a lasting impression on Fort Sill's youths.

Sgt. LaMonte Hannah, dental non-commissioned-officer, said parents and caregivers also need to know how important those early teeth are to oral health. While those "baby teeth" may seem disposable their maintenance may affect the permanent teeth to come.

"You don't want to get any cavities in those teeth. Those kids are so small they're not going to be able to describe symptoms if they have an infection. They're going to have a fever and you're not going to know what the source is," said Seaton.

If children have what looks like an infection in their mouths, Seaton advises they be taken to the dentist immediately. Putting it off until say the tooth falls out and a permanent one comes in could cost the parent or guardian so much more in the long run.

"The more the cavities grow, the teeth are going to squeeze together so you're losing so much space in between the teeth and that's why a lot of people need braces," said Seaton.

Seaton recommends children have annual visits to the dentist starting at six months of age. She said that way the dentist can detect other conditions that can be in the soft tissue or gums even before the child gets their first tooth.

"It's just like a well-baby check-up. You take them in, it's going to get them used to being at the dentist, nothing is painful. It's non-threatening. They open their mouth, they get a toy, most likely the dentist will apply some fluoride varnish to help harden the outside surface of the tooth and they're good-to-go," said Seaton.

Regular visits to the dentist can also offer a familiarity that will help ward off any fear children may have. Infrequent visits can have the opposite effect because of the experience the child may have from a neglected mouth.

"When families don't put a lot of importance on oral hygiene you see a lot of kids end up in the operating room because their teeth are so bad. They have so many cavities they have to have them all capped and taken out. You don't want to wait until it gets to that stage," said Seaton.

The dental facilities on post don't handle spouses and children but they can provide a list of dentists in the area that are TRICARE approved.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16