• Children learn about dental health

  • February is National Children's Dental Health Month.

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in children.
    “The good news is there are safe and effective preventive measures that can protect teeth,” according to the official NIDCR website. “Good oral hygiene practices … can help keep children from getting cavities.”
    To raise awareness about these issues and prevention practices, February was named National Children’s Dental Health Month in 1981. Representatives from Smith Dental Clinic have been visiting post schools to talk with the students at the elementary schools throughout the month. They visited Bradley Elementary School pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students Feb. 12.
    “Unfortunately, we don’t see kids as much at Smith Dental Clinic, so we’re trying to do our best to reach out and help in ways that we can,” said Capt. Jeff Jepperson, a dentist at Smith. “Anytime that we can make what might be a little frightening or intimidating to kids and help them understand that it can be fun, and that it is really good for them, I think it is important. I think it is also important to help them start learning those things at a very young age.”
    Katie Dall, Bradley Elementary School nurse, said proper dental health is important for overall health and wellness.
    “If your teeth are ship shape, eating fruits and veggies is easier,” Dall said. “We hope the kids enjoy this experience and get excited about taking care of their teeth.”
    During the presentation, Jepperson and Smith Dental Assistant Jennifer Staton talked about the correct amount of time children should brush their teeth and how often they should visit the dentist throughout the year. They also showed the students the correct way to brush their teeth in a gentle circular motion, and how to floss by hugging the tooth and pulling up.
    Staton created a shark mouth with “food particles” in between teeth and had student volunteers practice flossing.
    Jepperson showed the students some of the things he wears as a dentist such as gloves, mask and loupes — magnifying glasses — to show the students that the items are not meant to make him look scary.
    “If you ever think a dentist looks scary, just look in his eyes and you’ll just start laughing because he looks kind of silly and goofy,” Jepperson told the students. “All of this is to help you.”
    Finally, Jepperson talked to the students about cavities and how they’re caused by sugar. He also played “The Sugar Game” with the students to emphasize the difference between good sugar and bad sugar by naming a food and having the students give a thumbs up if it was a good sugar, like fruits and vegetables, or a thumbs down if it was a bad sugar, like candy and soda.
    Page 2 of 2 - “If we don’t give the sugar bugs any sugar they can’t make the cavities. But, would life be very fun if we couldn’t have any sugar, if we couldn’t have any candy? That’d be kind of sad,” Jepperson said. “So, guess what, I’m here today to say you can have a little bit of candy, as long as it is OK with your parents. A little bit of candy is not bad.”
    Bradley kindergartener Ellie Lopez, 6, said she only eats sugar once a month.
    “I forget to (floss), but I also don’t eat sugar,” she said. “I brush (my teeth) at night, and I eat vitamins. It helps your teeth not fall out.”
    As the students left, Jepperson and Staton also handed out goodie bags complete with a toothbrush, a tooth box for when they lose a tooth, a ball, a pencil, stickers and a coloring sheet with fun facts about dental health.
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