National Children’s Dental Health Month: Resources for Local Health Departments

By Hollis Russinof, Manager, Campaign for Dental Health, American Academy of Pediatrics

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month (NCDHM), a month-long national health observance to promote the oral health of children and families. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) joins the month’s sponsor, the American Dental Association, in providing resources for local health departments and health professionals to use and share. The AAP theme for this year’s observance is pregnancy and oral health. Through a new resource, Protect Tiny Teeth, the AAP and other organizations are working to better educate providers about the need to work with pregnant women to achieve optimal oral health before and after a baby is born. Below are resources that can be used to promote this project, as well as general oral health and breastfeeding resources from the AAP and its Campaign for Dental Health.

Pregnant Women & Oral Health

A woman’s oral health status is a strong predictor of her child’s oral health. Although pregnant women are more prone to cavities and gum disease, they are less likely to see a dentist.[i][ii] Providers working with pregnant women and mothers of children ages zero to five are in a unique position to promote good oral health across generations and provide guidance on disease prevention.

The AAP offers a variety of resources on topics to address with moms at a time when they seek information on how to keep themselves and their babies happy and healthy.

Protect Tiny Teeth is an oral health communications resource to help facilitate conversations between pregnant women and their healthcare providers. Use it to provide healthy tips to patients and connect moms to the oral health answers they need. The toolkit, currently available in Spanish and English (with more languages coming soon!), includes waiting room posters, infographics, and brochures, many of which can be customized with an organization’s logo. Short videos and sample tweets are also included for use on social media.

Give Your Baby the Best Possible Start, found on the AAP website HealthyChildren.org, is designed as a go-to source for oral health tips for pregnant women, new moms, and family members to access directly.

Breastfeeding

NACCHO and the AAP are both strong promoters of breastfeeding as the source of nutrition for newborns and babies, and breastfeeding is also a contributing factor to a baby’s oral health. The Breastfeeding Public Health Partners (BPHP) is a partnership of national organizations convened by NACCHO to improve the health and well-being of women, infants, children, and families through individual and collective efforts to increase the proportion of infants who are breastfed. The purpose of the partnership is to inform members about the various project activities of partner organizations, increase resource and information sharing about breastfeeding support, and improve collaboration and coordination of breastfeeding support activities to strengthen the public health infrastructure and understanding of the significance of breastfeeding as a public health priority.

The Breastfeeding In the Community Program Implementation Guide, archived webinars, capacity briefs and resources, and success stories can all be found on NACCHO’s breastfeeding webpage. Extensive resources for new mothers on topics including teething and tooth care can be found on the AAP website HealthyChildren.org.

Community Water Fluoridation

Community water fluoridation (CWF) is one of the most important public health measures practiced in the U.S. today that is not administered by public health departments. Although many people take for granted that CWF in the U.S. is a safe and well-accepted practice, some people question or even oppose it.

The Campaign for Dental Health, a program of the AAP, promotes the preventive benefits of CWF because dental disease, also known as caries or cavities, is the most common chronic disease of childhood.[iii] It is a preventable infectious disease that is often transmitted from caregiver to child. CWF has been proven to prevent this disease by 25% or more, reducing painful and costly decay for both children and adults.[iv]

The Learn and Share pages of the Campaign for Dental Health website house a wide variety of fact sheets, memes, posters, and videos. Resources specific to settings where children are present can be found on the Health Professionals page. For health departments that collaborate with local water utilities, the new Water Operators page will be of interest.

Ed. note: Find more community water fluoridation resources, including a communications toolkit, on NACCHO’s website.

The AAP is pleased to partner with NACCHO and local health departments on oral health, maternal and child health, and community health initiatives.

[i] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Selected 2012 through 2015 Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Indicators. PRAMS. Accessed Nov 30, 2018.  https://www.cdc.gov/prams/pramstat/pdfs/mch-indicators/PRAMS-All-Sites-2012-2015-508.pdf

[ii] Gaffield ML, Colley Gilbert BJ, Malvitz DM, & Romaguera R. Oral health during pregnancy: An analysis of information collected by the pregnancy risk assessment monitoring system. J Am Dent Assoc. 2001;132(7):1009-1016. doi:10.14219/jada.archive.2001.0306

[iii] https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/basics/childrens-oral-health/index.html

[iv] Community Preventive Services Task Force. Preventing Dental Caries: Community Water Fluoridation. Guide to Community Preventive Services. http://www.thecommunityguide.org/oral/fluoridation.html.

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