Community Magazine

Happy, Healthy Futures Begin With Good Oral Health Habits

By Jean Campbell

Oral health Foundation logoThe following post comes from Fern K. Ingber, MEd, President and CEO of the National Children’s Oral Health Foundation.

Where has the summer gone?  Back-to-school is upon us again.  Keeping children healthy is a top priority for both parents and educators.  Help your child start the school year off right by establishing positive oral health habits that will contribute to a lifetime of good health.

Pediatric dental disease, more commonly known as tooth decay, is the #1 chronic childhood disease.  It may seem absurd to you that tooth decay has reached epidemic proportions, but a 2007 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control determined that one in every five three-year-olds suffers from tooth decay.  You will be even more surprised to learn that more than 40 percent of children have tooth decay by the time they start kindergarten!

Many fail to realize that oral health is integral to overall systemic health.

The mouth is the gateway to the body and serves as a portal for nutritional intake as well as a potential site for microbial infections that can adversely affect general health status. According to the Academy of Pediatrics, lack of proper oral health care can lead to the development of rampant tooth decay, which can cause pain, infection, difficulty speaking and concentrating, malnutrition and sleep deprivation.  Not surprisingly, these factors can negatively impact a child’s growth and ability to learn.

In fact, over 51 million hours of school are missed annually due to dental disease, contributing to increased educational disparities.  In addition, untreated dental disease can contribute to low self-esteem, a key factor in a child’s quality of life and ability to succeed.  However, tooth decay is preventable as is the destruction it leaves in its wake.

Instilling good oral health habits in children is a crucial step in fighting tooth decay. A common misconception is that the primary teeth, what we often refer to as baby teeth, are not important.  Primary teeth play an important role speech development, a child’s appearance and facial structure, nutrition and ensuring that permanent teeth erupt in their normal positions. Although baby teeth are eventually replaced with permanent teeth, it is essential to keep them healthy.  Decay and infection in baby teeth can cause damage to developing permanent teeth.

Here are a few tips to help you maintain your child’s oral health and give them the building blocks they need for happy, healthy futures.

  • Invest in a new toothbrush at least every three months and after every illness to avoid lingering bacteria and germs.
  • Encourage your child to eat healthy snacks such as fruit, vegetables, cheese and yogurt.  Avoid starchy and sticky snacks that can cling to teeth and cause decay.
  • Brush and floss at least twice a day.  (Parents should supervise these activities until children are 8 or 9 years of age as most younger children do not possess the manual dexterity necessary to brush every tooth surface.)
  • Children should visit their dentist once every six months.

To learn more about how you can save children from preventable pain and eliminate the devastating effects of tooth decay, visit

Pres of Oral Health Foundation
About Fern K. Ingber, MEdFern Ingber is founding President and CEO of the National Children’s Oral Health Foundation: America’s Toothfairy® (NCOHF), established in 2006 by a group of concerned dental professionals to address the nation’s most common chronic childhood illness – pediatric dental disease.  Under Ms. Ingber’s leadership, NCOHF has delivered over $9 million in financial and product support to affiliate nonprofit oral health programs, reaching more than 1 million children with comprehensive care.

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog