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Oral Health

Good oral health is essential to overall health and well-being.

Dental disease is a serious public health issue and affects a person’s overall health and productivity. Many Americans suffer from oral diseases such as cavities, periodontal disease and oral cancer.

Risk Factors for Oral Health

Tips for Good Oral Health

  • Brush and floss daily to take care of your teeth and gums
  • Drink fluoridated water and use fluoride toothpaste
  • Choose healthy foods
  • Avoid tobacco
  • Limit alcohol (heavy use is a risk factor for oral and throat cancers)
  • Visit the dentist regularly

Importance of Oral Health for Children
Tooth decay (cavities) is one of the most common chronic conditions of childhood in the United States. Untreated decay can cause tooth pain and infections, which may lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing, and learning. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • About 1 of 5 children (5 to 11 years old) have at least one untreated decayed tooth.
  • 1 of 7 adolescents (12 to 19 years old) have at least one untreated decayed tooth.
  • The percentage of children and adolescents (ages 5 to 19) with untreated tooth decay is twice as high for those from low-income families compared with children from higher-income households.

The good news is that it is possible to prevent tooth decay. Fluoride varnish can prevent about one-third of decay in baby teeth. Children living in communities with fluoridated tap water have fewer decayed teeth than children who live in areas where their tap water is not fluoridated. In addition, children who brush daily with fluoride toothpaste will have less tooth decay.  Applying dental sealants to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth is another way to prevent tooth decay. 

Here are some things you can do to ensure good oral health for your child:

  • Protect your child's teeth with fluoride.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste.
  • If your child is younger than age 6, watch your child brush their teeth. Make sure your child only uses a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and always spits it out rather than swallows it.
  • If your child is younger than age 2, do not use fluoride toothpaste unless your doctor or dentist tells you to.
  • Talk to your pediatrician, family doctor, nurse, or dentist about putting fluoride varnish on your child’s teeth as soon as the first tooth appears in the mouth.
  • If your drinking water is not fluoridated, ask your dentist, family doctor, or pediatrician if your child needs oral fluoride supplements, like drops, tablets, or lozenges.
  • Talk to your child's dentist about dental sealants. Sealants protect teeth from decay.
  • Have your child visit a dentist for a first checkup by age 1, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. 



Source: South Dakota Department of Health Work Well Toolkit