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Smiling Girl With BracesBy Mary Nicholson

What celebrations come to mind during the month of February?  Certainly there’s Valentine’s Day or even President’s Day.  But what about a whole month celebrating Children’s Dental Health?  If you think about it, Valentine’s Day instantly brings to mind images of a heart-shaped box of candy, sugary conversation hearts, and maybe a bouquet of roses, right?  So go ahead and savor the sweets, but don’t forget about celebrating the teeth that enable you to enjoy them!

The American Dental Association sponsors National Children’s Dental Health Month each February to raise awareness about the importance of oral health.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tooth decay affects children in the United States more than any other chronic infectious disease.  Untreated tooth decay causes pain and infections that can lead to more serious problems that deal with eating, speaking, playing and learning.  Fortunately tooth decay and other oral diseases that can affect children are, for the most part, preventable.  Specifically, watching your kids’ snacks plays a part in their overall oral health.  Sweet sticky foods, if not followed by some kind of cleaning, can remain on the surface of the teeth and start the decay process.  But if you follow a sweet and sticky piece of candy, let’s say, by an apple (aka Nature’s Toothbrush) it’s a lot harder for the harmful parts of the candy to remain in contact with the tooth.  Another food item that helps is cheese!  Can you say yum!  Cheese has been shown to stimulate or increase the flow of saliva, which helps prevent cavities.  It also inhibits plaque bacteria.  The nutrients in cheese – calcium, protein, and phosphorous – also help to re-mineralize tooth enamel and strengthen teeth.  Eating a piece of cheese after eating sweets may help to balance out some of the negative effect sugar has on the teeth.

Cheese and teeth have another long-standing relationship, as well.  When posing for pictures, what’s the one word you hear?  CHEESE!  Because as we know, cheese makes everybody smile!