Every February, the American Dental Association sponsors National Children's Dental Health Month to help children become more aware of the importance of taking good care of their teeth. Second and third graders at Beverly-Center Elementary School were treated to a visit by the tooth fairy - no, not the real one, she was too busy - courtesy of Dr. Scott Eckels of Parkersburg.
The presentation began with a basic discussion about teeth. Students learned they have 20 baby teeth and will eventually have 32 permanent teeth.
They discussed the anatomy of a tooth - the enamel that can be seen and the roots of the tooth that are connected to the bone of the jaw and covered by their gums.
The tooth fairy then discussed how children and adults alike could develop good tooth care habits to help avoid the road to dentures later in life. The number one thing students were encouraged to do was to brush their teeth twice a day for at least two minutes each time. Proper brushing techniques were demonstrated - tiny circles around all the surfaces of the tooth is the best way. Students were reminded to get all the way back to the molars and to move gently along the gum line as well as remembering to brush their tongue and the roof of their mouth.
Flossing was discussed as a good way to keep teeth even healthier, along with using a fluoride mouth rinse that will strengthen the tooth enamel.
Eating healthy foods was also presented as a good way to keep teeth healthy. Students were encouraged to consider apples, carrots, and peppers - crunchy fruits and vegetables to help exercise their teeth.
Drinking milk products is needed for calcium as well. As for what to drink - drinking more water, fruit juices, and milk is best. Pops of all kinds are dangerous for teeth as the carbonation harms the teeth almost as much as the sugar that might be in the drink. Drink those things sparingly. They were reminded to also be wary of sports drinks because of their sugar content.
As a final step toward good dental health, students were encouraged to visit a dentist every 6 months to keep tooth problems small. Filling a cavity that may appear in a tooth is much easier than possibly having to pull the tooth in the future. The need to visit an orthodontist was discussed as the way to help make teeth fit better if it becomes a problem. Braces to straighten teeth and expanders to help jaw growth were mentioned as possible choices.
The tooth fairy presentede students with a goody bag of items to help them keep up the good dental health routine, including a toothbrush, toothpaste, and a timer to help them be sure to brush the recommended 2 minutes.
Sue Sampson is a longtime columnist for The Pakersburg News & Sentinel.