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Giving Kids a Healthy Smile:

Public Health Celebrates National Children's Dental Health Month

In an effort to raise awareness of the importance of oral Health, February has been proclaimed, "National Children's Dental Health Month." The American Dental Association (ADA) sponsors the month and annually creates educational resources that appeal to children, in an effort to increase oral Health awareness early on. According to the ADA, "Developing good habits at an early age and scheduling regular dental visits help children get a good start on a lifetime of Healthy teeth and gums." This year, the Dental Health Month campaign features the animated characters of "Flossy and Friends" which appeal to children in an effort to make brushing, flossing, and regular visits to the dentist fun.

The first Friday in February is celebrated as "Give Kids a Smile Day" in many communities. Amanda Adamson, Registered Dental Assistant and Public Health Project Specialist for the Kern County Public Health Services Department, says the Health department is hosting its own dental campaign. On February 4th, children five and under are encouraged to come in to the clinic at the Public Health Services Department and utilize their services. Public Health's "Little Smiles" program will provide a fluoride varnish treatment, toothbrush and paste, coloring book, and dental referral for eligible children.

"We use the fluoride varnish as a tool to encourage regular dental visits, not as a substitute for regular dental care," says Adamson. "Our program has a focus in the community to remind parents how important it is for their children to see a dentist at age one. Many parents think the first dental visit should occur when their child is starting school or at age three, but even at age two, tooth decay can already be present. We want the first dental visit for the child to be a pleasant one, without complications," she says. Adamson hopes that Public Health's dental campaign will increase awareness of the resources that many low-income families have access to for dental care.

Many families who are covered by Medi-Cal may not know that they have insurance coverage for their children's dental care through "Denti-Cal." According to Adamson, "If your children are covered by Medi-Cal, then they are covered by Denti-Cal." When families come into the Kern County Public Health Services Department, the Little Smiles program will help refer families to dental care that they can afford. "Our program creates an opportunity for Health education, dental referrals, and it also practices preventative Health," says Adamson

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