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Capt. Steven Peterman, Fort Sill Dental Activity Command dentist, lets Aliegha Sims practice the proper way of brushing teeth. The dentists visited each child development center on post during National Children's Dental Health Month. Dental experts say starting a child on a good dental regimen as early as possible will lead to fewer complications with their teeth as they get older.

FORT SILL, Okla.-- Every February, the American Dental Association sponsors National Children's Dental Health Month to raise attention on oral health care to the nation's youth.

"The key to a lifetime of oral health is to start when you are young," said Col. Bernard Hennessy, Comanche Advanced

Education in General Dentistry 12-month program director. "All children should be seen by a dentist by age 1. Even in infancy, as teeth erupt, they should be cleaned with a damp cloth or soft brush."

Hennessy explained what Fort Sill has done to promote dental health for children.

"We tried to get the word out to the child development centers for oral health," said Hennessy. "Dental health professionals visited preschool classes in all of the CDCs. The kids were taught proper ways to brush and floss, what kinds of food to eat and what to avoid. We can all use inspiration to take care of our teeth and mouth. That's what we tried to bring to Fort Sill's preschoolers."

There are several things parents can do to help their children develop good oral hygiene and health.

"Mothers can potentially pass down bacteria which causes cavities," explained Hennessy, "But just because you are more prone to cavities doesn't mean you have to suffer with them.

"Babies should never be put to bed with a bottle. Milk, juice or anything other than water that sits in the mouth can cause cavities to exposed teeth. Teeth can rot before they are even fully grown in. Baby and toddler teeth should be cleaned after every meal."

Brushing teeth is only half the battle for a healthy mouth.

"Until a child can spit, they should not use fluoride toothpaste," explained Hennessy. "In many cases, a small smear of toothpaste or water alone is enough to properly clean little teeth. Also, parents need to floss their children's teeth daily.

Baby teeth are just as important as adult teeth. They hold the place for the adult teeth to grow in. If baby teeth are missing, they should be replaced until the adult tooth grows in.

"Prevention is so important. Getting into good habits while you are young leads to lifelong health."

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