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Post Valentine's Day: Show Your Teeth Some Love

Good oral health habits can decrease the incidence of cavities among children. (Josh Mazgelis/flickr)
Good oral health habits can decrease the incidence of cavities among children. (Josh Mazgelis/flickr)
February 15, 2018

RALEIGH, N.C. – Chances are you and the children in your life may have had a little more candy on Valentine's Day than normal.

And it's likely no accident that February is Children's Dental Health Month. With that in mind, experts are emphasizing the importance of regular cleanings and checkups.

Health care groups say it's about more than teaching children to brush twice a day and floss regularly.

Registered dental hygienist Jennifer Hasch says regular visits to the dentist help instill consistent oral hygiene habits in children that can decrease the incidence of cavities.

"Having that access to a dental provider can catch things when they're small,” she points out. “A cavity that is small can be fixed with a simple restoration, whereas something that gets larger over time can lead to abscess and systemic infection."

The number of children covered by Medicaid or by private dental coverage has increased since 2000.

Fluoridated water is another contributor to healthier teeth and 88 percent of the state's water supply is on a water system receiving fluoride.

North Carolina's number of dentists participating in Medicaid has decreased over the years with 27 percent of dentists participating in the state, compared with 42 percent nationally.

Hasch says finding providers who are available for prompt care also is a challenge, especially in rural parts of the state.

"In our more urban areas, it's a little more saturated, but even still, you can find two to three weeks – sometimes even a month’s long wait – for a child to access dental care,” she points out. “And when you're talking about active infection or abscess, that can be the difference between life and death."

The American Dental Association recommends that children visit the dentist after their first tooth appears, and no later than their first birthday.


Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC