FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Poor dental hygiene and care can have painful and lasting effects on a person's teeth and gums, and Fort Rucker's Brown Dental Clinic is pushing to teach children good dental health habits at an early age.
Dentists and assistants, including Lt. Col. Chun Chan, Brown Dental Clinic commander, visited the child development center Feb. 14, the Fort Rucker Primary School Feb. 15 and the Fort Rucker Elementary School Feb. 24 in order to perform general screenings for children to promote healthy dental habits for National Children Dental Health Month, according to Ann Bagley, general dentist at the clinic.
"This is something that happens every year in February, and the big reason it's done is to raise awareness about the importance of good dental health," she said. "They were short, general screenings, and we were just looking for obvious dental health problems, mainly tooth decay, and anything that we could see with a mirror and a light."
Overall, Bagley said the children had healthy teeth.
"Most of the children on Fort Rucker have good dental health. We saw some issues, but generally speaking they have very good dental health," said the dentist.
Conducting these screening is important to bring about awareness of the importance of dental health for not only the children, but for the parents, as well, who were notified if an issue was noticed, said Bagley.
"We look for (any issues because) they can cause infections and pain in the child, which can lead to them having problems with them eating, speaking, playing and learning," she said.
For children to keep their teeth healthy, parents should teach their children to take care of their teeth the same way adults do -- by brushing regularly, flossing, healthy eating and going for regular dental health checkups, said the dentist.
"They should avoid sugary foods like sodas and energy drinks, and just eat healthy foods, like fruits," she said.
Most commonly the biggest thing people tend to forget when it comes to proper tooth care is flossing, said Bagley, which is not just an issue seen in children, but in adults, as well.
"If it's an inconvenience, then people tend to not do it," she said, adding that people should make sure to floss regularly and get their children in the habit of flossing at an early age to promote good dental health habits.
Poor dental health can lead to pain, infections, and loss of teeth, and Bagley iterated that there are documented cases where infections can in some cases become life threatening, so people shouldn't take oral hygiene lightly.
Although children's primary teeth aren't permanent, Bagley said it shouldn't discourage people from making sure children take care of their teeth because although they won't have their baby teeth forever, complications can lead to issues when their permanent teeth come in.
"Decay or issues with baby teeth can cause problems throughout, and the problems can affect the developing permanent teeth, as well, which can cause problems in the future," she said, adding that prevention is the best medication.