How to Promote National Children’s Dental Health Month
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. Here’s how to promote and celebrate it with your patients and community.
Did you know that National Children’s Dental Health Month was started 82 years ago at the grass roots level marked by a one-day event in Cleveland, Ohio, and a one-week event held in Akron, Ohio? The American Dental Association later promoted a one-day national observance in February 1949, and made it a week-long national event in 1955. In 1981, it was extended to National Children’s Dental Health Month (NCDHM) to occur yearly in February.
Because it is important to begin and maintain an oral care regimen as soon as a baby’s first tooth erupts, engaging dental teams, parents, pediatric physicians, teachers, and other influencers in this annual acknowledgement of the importance of children’s oral health will help establish and engrain the attitude and good hygiene habits necessary to keep their smiles healthy and beautiful for life.
Dentists can lead the charge in their communities to increase awareness of National Children’s Dental Health Month while simultaneously promoting their important role in child and adult oral health. This year’s theme is “Brush, Floss, Smile.”
The American Dental Association, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Dental Hygienists Association, the USDA WIC Works Resource Center, and numerous other organizations offer ideas, materials, and other tools for publicizing children’s oral health advice and facts.
Here are some ideas and tips as well as links to free materials you can distribute to patients, local schools, and other healthcare providers in your community.
Posters, postcards, and more
The ADA offers posters and downloadable materials in both English and Spanish for free, and its postcards can be purchased at ada.org/ncdhm. Activity sheets and flyers are also available for distribution to help teachers and others educate and advocate for lifelong oral health. These can be posted on your website, mailed or emailed to your patient base, and forwarded to local newspapers and online community newsletters along with information about your practice.
You could also consider making an official proclamation, which can be publicly signed in a city hall, civic center, library, or other public place. The ADA recommends contacting elected officials’ press secretaries to schedule events and alert the local media.
Sponsoring a variety of activities in your town can bring attention to National Children’s Dental Health Month as well as your commitment to community support. Here are just a few ideas:
- Sponsor a coloring or poster contest for kids. Print the “Brush, Floss, Smile” coloring and activity sheets at ada.org and drop them at childcare locations and elementary schools, or encourage them to download and distribute them to their students. Offer prizes such as gift cards or tickets to events.
- Sponsor a dental health essay contest. School health nurses and physical education instructors may be interested in helping children or teens generate a persuasive topic, like diet, teeth cleaning, wearing braces, getting tooth-colored restorations and crowns, and what to do if a tooth gets knocked out. Other good ideas can be found at ada.org and mouthhealthy.org. With written permission, winners’ photos could be sent to local papers.
- Offer presentations at area schools.
- Create a display to exhibit at a library or museum. Your staff may find this a lot of fun!
- Hold oral health screenings at schools, clinics, churches, community centers, or a health fair.
- Talk to youth groups such as the Scouts, YMCA, and 4-H.
- Write something for local newspapers or contact radio and TV stations and offer to be on a show. The ADA offers sample press releases and articles you can personalize for your community. These can also be put on bulletin boards in libraries, health clubs, churches, and grocery stores. Tips and resources for media appearances are also available on the ADA website.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry is another source for messaging during NCDHM. These are good reminders for families, caregivers, teachers, pediatricians, and everyone else advocating for children’s health in your community. The AAPD offers the following shareable tips:
My Children’s Teeth Resources
Safety at home—Ensuring safe and positive dental experiences for children starts at home. First, find a dental home for your child by the time their first tooth comes in, and definitely by age one. Provide a balanced diet and make sure they drink plenty of bottled water rather than juice or sugary drinks.
If a tooth is knocked out, contact the child’s dentist immediately. Have the child rinse with water and use a cold compress to keep swelling down. Find the tooth, if possible, and either put it back in place or in a glass of milk.
Safety at school—Oral injuries can happen at school during recess and sports activities. A mouthguard should be worn during sports to protect the teeth. Be sure to replace toothbrushes frequently, discuss good school lunch options, and schedule dental appointments on school holidays.
Safety at the dentist—If you or your child are not feeling well, stay home and reschedule your appointment. Make sure children wash their hands before and again after a dental appointment. Use hand sanitizer often. Wear a mask unless otherwise directed. Let children know they can feel safe at the dental office and be sure to ask any questions you have.
In its NCDHM promotion this month, the American Dental Hygienists Association notes that childhood caries are on the rise and that by age 5, up to 60% of children will be affected by tooth decay. Kids experiencing dental pain are three times more likely to miss school, resulting in more than 34 million hours of school missed each year. The ADHA offers methods to make your outreach have a better impact, including ways to share oral health education materials, and information on how to ensure that eligible children are enrolled in and have access to dental benefits through Medicaid and CHIP.
The Pennsylvania Dental Association offers a poster contest, online resources to assist with creating oral health presentations, lesson plans and ideas for teachers to use in the classroom, printable coloring and activity sheets, and publicity submission forms.
Tooth decay is one of the most prevalent, chronic infectious diseases children face. Parents need to know and be reminded that tooth decay is preventable and reversable. Promoting good oral hygiene and regular visits to the dentist can help their kids keep their teeth cavity-free.
And rest assured that dentists are well armed with numerous therapies to meet your child’s needs—from sealants to fluoride therapy to silver diamine fluoride fillings, tooth-colored restorations, stainless steel crowns, ceramic crowns, and solid zirconia tooth-colored crowns. All of these alternatives will protect teeth from further caries in conjunction with good home care. Learn more about high quality pediatric crowns.
Promotional Materials Links
A national children’s dental health month letter from AAPD President Dr. Donly. American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. https://www.mychildrensteeth.org/a-national-childrens-dental-health-month-letter-from-aapd-president-dr.-donly/. Accessed February 2, 2023.
February Focus: Prevention! Smile. It’s national children’s dental health month. American Dental Hygienists Association. https://www.adha.org/ncdhm/. Accessed February 8, 2023.
National Children’s Dental Health Month. WIC Works Resource System. US Department of Agriculture. https://wicworks.fns.usda.gov/resources/national-childrens-dental-health-month. Accessed February 2, 2023.
NCDHM 2023. Pennsylvania Dental Association. https://www.padental.org/Online/Resources___Programs/NCDHM_/NCDHM_Homepage.aspx. Accessed February 8, 2023.
Safety First. My Children’s Teeth. American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. https://www.mychildrensteeth.org/age-group-resources/safety-first2/. Accessed February 2, 2023.