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February public health observances put children's dental health in the spotlight

January 23, 2017

By Michelle Manchir

Dental professionals, especially those who interact with children, can take note of two public health observances for February: National Children's Dental Health Month and School-Based Health Care Awareness Month.

For National Children's Dental Health Month, members can order or download posters for their dental offices.

"Choose Tap Water for a Sparkling Smile" is the theme for the 2017 ADA campaign, which aims to promote the benefits of good oral health to children and their caregivers.

The colorful posters, in addition to activity sheets and other resources, are available online at ADA.org/NCDHM. The poster depicts familiar National Children's Dental Health Month cartoon characters, the Smileys, McGrinns and K9, climbing on and sliding down a heart and a water drop emoji. It also includes straightforward oral health tips, such as "brush two minutes, two times a day" and "clean between your teeth daily." The posters are 12 by 18 inches and are written in English on one side and Spanish on the other. They are available at no cost other than shipping — in packets of 25 through the ADA Catalog at adacatalog.org by searching for product Z102. For a limited time use promo code 16804 for 75 percent off shipping.

The ADA this year celebrates its 76th year of National Children's Dental Health Month. It began as a one-day event Feb. 3, 1941 in Cleveland. In 1981 the ADA House of Delegates extended it to a month-long observance.

Email ncdhm@ada.org for more information.

Meanwhile, the School-Based Health Alliance is celebrating School-Based Health care Awareness Month to spotlight an innovative way that children and adolescents receive health care.

Tiffaney Hamm, a program coordinator for the Delta Dental Center at Oyler's Community Learning Center, a K-12 school in Cincinnati, can speak to the value of school-based health centers firsthand.

As a dental center coordinator, Ms. Hamm works with the school and its school-based health center, which is part of the Cincinnati Health Department, to ensure the school's 700 children regularly see a dentist. The health center also provides vision screenings and primary care.

The setup works. School-based health care models are effective, eliminating broken appointments since the schoolchildren are taken out of extracurricular and elective courses such as physical education or art for their dental appointments, Ms. Hamm said. The Cincinnati Health Department has three school-based dental centers that are some of the few pediatric dental offices that accept Medicaid in the Cincinnati area, she said, adding that the models allow community members to also use the school-based dental clinic as their dental home.

When the dental center opened four years ago, Ms. Hamm recalled, "we had students within our high school that had never seen a dentist." These days, the dental clinic averages 3,500 visits a year and works to ensure that all of the school's children have regular checkups.

"Having a mix of Oyler students, but also able to see community patients, allows us to remain open and sustainable over the schools scheduled winter break, spring break and even through the summer vacation," Ms. Hamm said. "It allows us to be here for our patients when they need us, creating a dental home for children."

For more information about the School-based Dental Health Alliance and to see a census of school based health centers in the U.S. like Oyler Community Health Center, visit sbh4all.org.