National Children’s Dental Health Month 2024!
Welcome to National Children’s Dental Health Month, a great time to promote the benefits of good oral hygiene, because developing good dental health habits (including regular dental visits) helps children get a jump start on a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.
Message from the Dental Director
We hope that you are having a wonderful start to 2024! We at the Oral Health Unit (OHU) are excited to kick off 2024 with Children’s Dental Health Month in February. Much of the work in the OHU focuses on early childhood oral health with well-established, evidence-based interventions. As we plan for what’s to come in 2024 and beyond, we must understand the needs that have been exacerbated by the ripple effects of years past.
The landscape for children’s oral health in Colorado has undergone changes in the past several years. The 2016–2017 Basic Screening Survey (BSS) found that nearly half of children experience a cavity by third grade, and three in ten children have tooth decay by kindergarten. During the COVID-19 pandemic, access to dental services became limited as dental offices and school-based programs began to shut down. Growing anecdotal reports suggest there may be an increase in untreated and severe tooth decay in children following the pandemic, as described by community health centers and other oral health safety net partners. Preliminary examination of the 2022/2023 BSS data echo these anecdotal observations and found that more than half of children experience a cavity by third grade, and just under half of children have tooth decay by kindergarten, (22-23 BSS Report not yet released). These findings from the most recent BSS reveal an increase in the prevalence of untreated decay in these age groups overall, with minority populations impacted by cavities and decay at a rate significantly higher than their white counterparts. Final reports from the most recent BSS will be released in 2024 to quantify this impact across the state and understand the burden of disease among communities.
Children face many other barriers to oral health care beyond the COVID-19 disruptions, such as language, geographic location, and insurance coverage. However, a great many partners across the state work to support children’s dental health.
Keep reading to see some of the work across Colorado being highlighted, resources, and research.
Maryam Mahmood DMD, MPH
State Dental Director
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
National Children’s Dental Health Month Communication Resources
American Dental Association (ADA): National Children’s Dental Health Month communications tools for organizations.
The ADA provides a landing page for National Children’s Dental Health Month. On this page, you’ll find posters, postcards, flyers, activities, and outreach resources for oral health champions.
Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors (ASTDD): National Children’s Dental Health Month sample messages and graphics available
The ASTDD Social Media Work Group created a folder of more than 30 sample messages and 10 different graphics for Children’s Dental Health Month. Sample messages are divided into two audiences: health professionals and organizational partners, and parents and family advocates. Click here to go to the ASTDD folder.
Join the Smile Squad: Rocky Mountain PBS and Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation Team Up for Kids’ Oral Health!
Rocky Mountain PBS and Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation have joined forces to launch an exciting public health awareness campaign aimed at promoting children’s oral health. Dive into a world of animated characters, led by Pepper the Badger, as they share engaging and informative content about oral health for kids and caregivers. Don’t miss out – watch the first video now and explore a range of fun activities brought to you by Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation and Rocky Mountain PBS by clicking here!
Nourishing Smiles: The Connection between WIC, Nutrition, and Oral Health
WIC (the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children,) is a nutrition program for income-eligible pregnant and postpartum women, babies, and kids up to 5 years old. WIC emphasizes the importance of a balanced diet. Eligible families receive free healthy food, personalized nutrition counseling, and breastfeeding support. The program also promotes healthy habits, including proper care of the gums and teeth and feeding practices that reduce the risk of developing early childhood caries. Colorado WIC works to improve the linkage between participants and healthcare providers, including dentists, through referrals. Pregnant women, new moms, and families with kids under 5 can qualify based on income or participation in certain programs like Medicaid or SNAP. Spread the word about WIC by exploring the Health Care Provider Package, discussing benefits during appointments, and displaying outreach materials available in several languages in your office. You can refer eligible individuals to WIC through www.coloradowicsignup.com with their verbal consent, and we’ll reach out to them.
2023 Article Roundup
Though there were several articles throughout the year, here are a few that the Cavity Free at Three team wanted to highlight for National Children’s Dental Health Month
The ASTDD updated their Best Practice Approach report on preventing early childhood caries. This report focuses on preventive strategies, including early detection and interventions, to help prevent, manage and reduce the most common chronic disease in children.
The AAP released an article with recommendations for health care professionals on how to implement oral health services into practice to help increase access to oral health care and prevent dental caries in children.
Fluoride varnish is a preventive treatment commonly used to prevent early childhood caries in children. This analysis found that children who received topical fluoride had a lower risk for restorative procedures and extractions compared to children who did not receive topical fluoride.
Integrating preventive oral health services into well child checks is an evidence-driven strategy to increase access to oral health care and to improve oral health outcomes among children. The research conducted in this article demonstrated the positive impact of integrating oral health services in well child checks.
The National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center released their 5th edition resource guide which provides information related to oral health in schools. Schools are a great setting to promote oral health for children and adolescents.