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National Children’s Dental Health Month celebrates 75 years of fighting childhood caries

Monthlong observance includes fairs, contests, exhibits, free oral screenings

January 18, 2016

By Michelle Manchir

What began as a humble one-day event in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1941 is in 2016 a nationally recognized and celebrated monthlong ADA event that spreads awareness and information about the benefits of good oral health to children and their caregivers.
National Children’s Dental Health Month in February will turn 75. This year’s “Sugar Wars” campaign theme depicts heroic cartoon children in a spaceship swatting “Sweet Tooth Invaders” with toothbrushes.
Each year, local observances of the month often include poster displays, coloring and essay contests, health fairs, free dental screenings, museum exhibits, classroom presentations and dental office tours.
“National Children’s Dental Health Month has become the symbol of what can happen when thousands of dedicated dental professionals, health care providers and educators come together to help bring awareness to the importance of oral health care,” said Dr. Cesar R. Sabates, chair of the ADA Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations, which overseas the annual observance.
“I hope that the next 75 years will bring even greater successes as we strive to eliminate early childhood caries and educate everyone on the importance of a healthy mouth and a healthy body,” he said. “It is through education and prevention that we can eliminate the needless pain and suffering of so many children.”
Dental caries remains the most common chronic disease of children ages 6 to 11 years and adolescents ages 12 to 19 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tooth decay is four times more common than asthma among adolescents ages 14 to 17 years, according to the CDC.

The materials from the ADA related to the observance, including posters available at no cost online, aim to educate youth and their caregivers with simple healthy tips including “brush two minutes, two times a day,” “clean between your teeth daily,” “eat healthy meals,” and “visit your dentist regularly.”

Shirley Walsh, a member of the Alliance of the American Dental Association, has been distributing posters and other NCDHM materials in her hometown in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, for more than 25 years. The retired dietitian said she takes the materials to local libraries and schools, where they are posted and often discussed.

“They do a wonderful job of public education,” said Mrs. Walsh, adding that, “Many of us in the dental community know how important good oral health care is, but not everyone knows. Children need to learn early.”

Also available online from the ADA is a NCDHM Program Planning Guide that can help program coordinators and others find ways to promote the benefits of good oral health to children.

The guide includes, at no cost, coloring sheets, activity sheets, certificates, a sample NCDHM proclamation and drafts of other official communications.

The ADA Foundation provided some of the funding for National Children’s Dental Health Month activities.

You can help the ADA to celebrate the 75th anniversary of National Children’s Dental Health Month by sharing facts and tips about good oral health and nutrition habits. A special social media toolkit for NCDHM will be posted to by Jan. 20 with images and posts to drive awareness in your community.

The ADA has a long history of promoting good oral health care for children. In 1949, it held the first national observance of Children’s Health Day, and in 1955, it became a weeklong event.

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