Guest column: February is National Children’s Dental Health month

Parents and caregivers are the first defense in helping prevent tooth decay in Arizona’s youngest children.

February is National Children’s Dental Health month, which promotes the benefits of good oral health. Left untreated, tooth decay in young children’s primary teeth puts them at risk for future problems like damaged permanent teeth; increased vulnerability to infections in other parts of the body, such as the ears, sinuses and the brain; and, impaired speech development, and reduced self-esteem.

Even though more and more toddlers and preschoolers are making that important first visit to the dentist’s office, challenges remain. According to a First Things First study, conducted in partnership with the Arizona Department of Health Services, 52 percent of Arizona’s kindergartners have experienced tooth decay compared with 36 percent of 5-year-old children nationally.

The FTF Navajo Nation Region funds the Navajo Nation Oral Health Program to provide oral screenings and fluoride varnish to children ages birth to 5, in addition to providing oral health education to parents and caregivers living on the Navajo Nation within Arizona’s stateline. The program works with child care centers, preschools and other local agencies that provide services to children birth to 5 years within the region.

More information is available at firstthingsfirst.org.

First Things First is a voter-created, statewide organization that funds early education and health programs to help kids be successful once they enter kindergarten. Decisions about how those funds are spent are made by local councils staffed by community volunteers. To learn more, visit FirstThingsFirst.org.

First Things First Arizona

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