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Good habits help teeth last for a life time

PROVO, Utah (February 2, 2011) -- Most of us take our teeth for granted. They are always there, and ready to bite into anything we throw at them. But the Utah County Health Department and the American Dental Association want everyone to remember that good habits -- especially started at an early age -- is the only way to ensure a lifetime of reliable chompers.

That is why February is designated National Children's Dental Health Month. Whether you are a dentist, parent, or other care giver, you can help children -- and yourself -- develop healthy habits to get a great start on a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.

So what are healthy habits? "Obviously, the starting point is brushing and flossing everyday," said Child Health Evaluation and Care (CHEC) Coordinator Laura Loree. "But there are other behaviors parents can encourage in their children, and themselves, as well."

Foods high in sugar are a habit that can be discouraged. "When sugar is eaten or drank repeatedly, it can have serious effects on the enamel of teeth," said Loree. "Sugar on teeth provides food for bacteria, which produce acid which eats coating protecting your teeth."

Almost all foods have some type of sugar that cannot and should not be eliminated from our diets. Many of these foods contain important nutrients and add enjoyment to eating. But there is a risk for tooth decay from a diet high in sugars and starches. Starches can be found in everything from bread to pretzels to salad dressing, so read labels and plan carefully for a balanced, nutritious diet for you and your kids.

Some ideas to reduce your children’s risk of tooth decay might include:

  • Sugary foods and drinks should be consumed with meals. Saliva production increases during meals and helps neutralize acid production and rinse food particles from the mouth.
  • Limit between-meal snacks. If kids crave a snack, offer them nutritious foods.
  • If your kids chew gum, make it sugarless - Chewing sugarless gum after eating can increase saliva flow and help wash out food and decay-producing acid.
  • Monitor beverage consumption - Instead of soft drinks all day, children should also choose water and low-fat milk.
  • Help your children develop good brushing and flossing habits.
  • Schedule regular dental visits.

"Simple steps can have profound effects," said Loree. "We hopefully have our teeth for a lifetime, so things we do today and tomorrow will effect our teeth years in the future. It is cumulative. If we encourage our children to take care of their teeth now, we can help to lower their risks in the future."

Fluoride prescriptions are available through UCHD and a dental hygiene kit is provided for each child who receives a prescription at the time they come in. "We also provide information regarding dental health and community resources available for those who are on Medicaid and/or are low income/uninsured," said Loree.

CHEC provides outreach to educate consumers on the importance of preventive healthcare, dental care, and immunizations for children and work with local medical and dental providers to help them understand CHEC benefits under Medicaid and billing procedures. The Utah County Health Department is committed to promoting the health of our community, prevent avoidable disease and injury by monitoring the health of our community, and assuring conditions in which people can be healthy. For information on UCHD programs or services, please visit www.UtahCountyHealth.org or call 801-851-7000. You can also now follow the UCHD on at www.twitter.com/uchd or www.FaceBook.com/uchealth.

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