February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. Throughout the nation, all types of programs are implemented to increase awareness of the importance of pediatric dental health.

Keeping baby teeth, or primary teeth, in good condition is important for many reasons. Healthy baby teeth hold space for the permanent teeth, and they will lead the path for healthy permanent teeth by creating a sound environment for the new teeth to come in. Of course, children need to eat and chew foods to grow. And they will do better in school when they don’t have pain or infections from tooth decay.

The American Dental Association has a campaign called “Give Kids a Smile Day,” where various dental organizations offer free dental care to children. The San Joaquin Dental Society, a component of the ADA, is supporting this campaign with an event this Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., at St. Raphael’s Dental Clinic, 545 W. Sonora St., in Stockton. Volunteers will provide free dental treatment and education for children from San Joaquin, Calaveras and Tuolumne counties, as well as the city of Galt.

Some dental offices also visit schools and give presentations to help children learn the importance of oral health.

Families can find useful publications and articles online. For example, visit the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry website, aapd.org, or go to mouthmonsters.mychildrensteeth.org.

Tooth decay is the No. 1 chronic infectious disease among children in the U.S. This can be prevented. Here are some ways to keep your child’s teeth healthy:

1. Start early, as soon as the first tooth appears.

2. Establish a “dental home” with a local pediatric dentist by age 1.

3. Help children with flossing and brushing until they have proper dexterity.

4. Don’t put children to bed with a bottle containing anything other than water.

5. Fight decay with fluoride.

6. Seal out decay with sealants.

7. A healthy diet equals healthy teeth.

8. Take your child for regular dental checkups twice a year.

9. Be an example by caring for your own teeth and gums.

Dr. Rafat Razi is a specialist in pediatric dentistry who practices in Tracy. She holds a doctor of dental medicine degree from the Harvard School of Dental Medicine and a master’s degree in public health from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

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