Good oral health begins in childhood. February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. 

Did you know that good oral hygiene begins before your teeth come in? From the time you’re a baby, good oral health is important for overall health. 

Simple steps such as wiping bacteria from a baby’s gums, teaching children to brush properly and drink tap water with fluoride can help reduce cavities and teaches good habits that last a lifetime.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than half of children ages six to eight have had a cavity in at least one of their baby teeth.  Children ages five to nineteen, whose families have a lower income, are twice as likely to have cavities compared with children from higher-income households.  

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, a time to raise awareness of the importance of developing good habits at an early age.  

Consider these P.E.A.R.L.S. of Wisdom from the CDC:  

  • Protect tiny teeth by caring for your mouth when you’re pregnant. Your child’s future oral health starts with you. 
  • Ensure a baby’s clean gums by wiping them after each meal.  
  • Avoid putting babies to bed with a bottle. 
  • Remember to brush your child’s teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste. If your child is younger than two, talk with your dentist or doctor about when to start using fluoride toothpaste. 
  • Limit drinks and food with added sugars for children. Encourage your child to eat more fruits and vegetables and have fewer fruit drinks, cookies, and candies.  
  • Schedule your child’s first dental visit by their first birthday or after their first tooth appears.  

For more tips, to learn more about fluoride in water systems and to find a dentist for young children, visit the Virginia Department of Health’s Oral Health page.  

In 1952, the Virginia Department of Health’s Dental Health Program began with school-based clinical programs. VDH dental hygienists work throughout the state to provide dental services and education. They work remotely in schools, providing dental cleanings, sealants and education. They also work in Women, Infants and Children (WIC) clinics providing fluoride varnish and education to young children and their families. 

National Children’s Dental Health Month began in February 1941, as a one-day event in Cleveland, Ohio, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). The ADA held the first national Children’s Dental Health Day in February 1949. The single day observance became a week-long event in 1955. It was extended to a month-long observance in 1981.