2007-02-16 / Front Page

'Keeping Smiles Brighter' During February

State Senator Shirley L. Huntley has applauded efforts to bring pediatric dentistry into the spotlight during National Children's Dental Health Month, held in the month of February.

"With proper nutrition, routine dental visits and preventative care, dental disease is largely preventable," Senator Huntley said. "I encourage parents to start early, educating their children about the lifelong benefits of good oral health. Proper oral hygiene should begin from day one."

During Children's Dental Health Month, the New York State Dental Association will sponsor "Keeping Smiles Brighter," a statewide contest to encourage children in preschool to 12th grade to design a T-shirt for kids that shares a message of good dental care. The prize for each age category is $100. Entries are due March 2.

While it is important to establish good oral habits in children, it is equally important to understand and break bad habits, such as thumb-sucking or swallowing large amounts of toothpaste, which can lead to the ingestion of excess fluoride.

According to the American Dental Association, dental cavities, the most common chronic disease of childhood, affects 50 percent of children by middle childhood. Chronic gum disease, or gingivitis, is also common. Fortunately, most oral diseases can be prevented.

Senator Huntley noted that children can develop proper dental habits at a very early age. In infancy, you can help your child get a head start by wiping their gums after each feeding, and later on, cleaning baby teeth with a soft cloth. While children generally need assistance or supervision until age 7 or 8, parents can begin teaching them brushing and flossing techniques at age 2 or 3.

Nutrition also plays an important role in promoting oral health, the Queens lawmaker said. Eating nutritious snacks and limiting the amount of sugary drinks will help prevent dental decay and put your child on the right path to a healthy lifestyle.

For more information on the "Keeping Smiles Brighter" contest, visit the New York Dental Association's website at www.nysdental.org.

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