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Defeat Monster Mouth - National Children's Dental Health Month

Hailey Kossow, a dental health month participant, demonstrates proper brushing techniques for hard to reach teeth during a National Children’s Dental Health month demonstration at Anderson Elementary, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Feb. 10, 2015. Icemen from the dental office explained the importance of staying away from sugary foods, eating a healthy diet, how toothpaste is a vitamin for teeth and gave brushing and flossing techniques. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Racheal E. Watson/Released)

Hailey Kossow, a dental health month participant, demonstrates proper brushing techniques for hard to reach teeth during a National Children’s Dental Health month demonstration at Anderson Elementary, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Feb. 10, 2015. Icemen from the dental office explained the importance of staying away from sugary foods, eating a healthy diet, how toothpaste is a vitamin for teeth and gave brushing and flossing techniques. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Racheal E. Watson/Released)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Susan Liebig, a 354th Medical Operations Squadron dental hygienist, uses “Mojo Monkey” to discuss healthy teeth care practices during a National Children’s Dental Health month demonstration at Anderson Elementary, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Feb. 10, 2015. Icemen from the dental office explained the importance of staying away from sugary foods, eating a healthy diet, how toothpaste is a vitamin for teeth and gave brushing and flossing techniques. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Racheal E. Watson/Released)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Susan Liebig, a 354th Medical Operations Squadron dental hygienist, uses “Mojo Monkey” to discuss healthy teeth care practices during a National Children’s Dental Health month demonstration at Anderson Elementary, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Feb. 10, 2015. Icemen from the dental office explained the importance of staying away from sugary foods, eating a healthy diet, how toothpaste is a vitamin for teeth and gave brushing and flossing techniques. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Racheal E. Watson/Released)

A child shows how to brush a tongue during a National Children’s Dental Health month demonstration at Anderson Elementary, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Feb. 10, 2015. Icemen from the dental office explained the importance of staying away from sugary foods, eating a healthy diet, how toothpaste is a vitamin for teeth and gave brushing and flossing techniques. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Racheal E. Watson/Released)

A child shows how to brush a tongue during a National Children’s Dental Health month demonstration at Anderson Elementary, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Feb. 10, 2015. Icemen from the dental office explained the importance of staying away from sugary foods, eating a healthy diet, how toothpaste is a vitamin for teeth and gave brushing and flossing techniques. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Racheal E. Watson/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Amber Green, the 354th Medical Operations Squadron dental records noncommissioned officer in charge, talks to children during a National Children’s Dental Health month demonstration at Anderson Elementary, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Feb. 10, 2015. Icemen from the dental office explained the importance of staying away from sugary foods, eating a healthy diet, how toothpaste is a vitamin for teeth and gave brushing and flossing techniques. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Racheal E. Watson/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Amber Green, the 354th Medical Operations Squadron dental records noncommissioned officer in charge, talks to children during a National Children’s Dental Health month demonstration at Anderson Elementary, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Feb. 10, 2015. Icemen from the dental office explained the importance of staying away from sugary foods, eating a healthy diet, how toothpaste is a vitamin for teeth and gave brushing and flossing techniques. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Racheal E. Watson/Released)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Susan Liebig, a 354th Medical Operations Squadron hygienist, watches a child demonstrate proper teeth cleaning techniques during a National Children’s Dental Health month demonstration at Anderson Elementary, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Feb. 10, 2015. Icemen from the dental office explained the importance of staying away from sugary foods, eating a healthy diet, how toothpaste is a vitamin for teeth and gave brushing and flossing techniques. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Racheal E. Watson/Released)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Susan Liebig, a 354th Medical Operations Squadron hygienist, watches a child demonstrate proper teeth cleaning techniques during a National Children’s Dental Health month demonstration at Anderson Elementary, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Feb. 10, 2015. Icemen from the dental office explained the importance of staying away from sugary foods, eating a healthy diet, how toothpaste is a vitamin for teeth and gave brushing and flossing techniques. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Racheal E. Watson/Released)

Brecken Thorpe, a dental health month participant, shows his father U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Richard Thorpe, the 354th Medical Operations Squadron dental flight chief, how to brush during a National Children’s Dental Health month demonstration at Anderson Elementary, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Feb. 10, 2015. Icemen from the dental office explained the importance of staying away from sugary foods, eating a healthy diet, how toothpaste is a vitamin for teeth and gave brushing and flossing techniques. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Racheal E. Watson/Released)

Brecken Thorpe, a dental health month participant, shows his father U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Richard Thorpe, the 354th Medical Operations Squadron dental flight chief, how to brush during a National Children’s Dental Health month demonstration at Anderson Elementary, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Feb. 10, 2015. Icemen from the dental office explained the importance of staying away from sugary foods, eating a healthy diet, how toothpaste is a vitamin for teeth and gave brushing and flossing techniques. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Racheal E. Watson/Released)

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Every year, the American Dental Association celebrates February as National Children's Dental Health Month. 

This year marks the 66th year of the annual campaign in which dental professionals raise awareness about the importance of oral health in children.

The National Children's Dental Health Month campaign slogan this year is "defeat monster mouth" to promote good oral health for all ages. 

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, along with the ADA, recommends children have their first dental check-up when their first tooth appears, but no later than 12 months old.  This early visit is important because it helps establish a pleasant, friendly relationship between the dentist, child and parent. This can also help identify any early dental problems. 

Baby teeth, also known as primary teeth, are very important.  Children need baby teeth to help chew their food naturally and also to learn to speak properly and clearly.  They also help hold space in the jaws and provide a pathway for the adult teeth to follow.

Thumb sucking is often a natural reflex for children.  Sucking on pacifiers, fingers, toys and other objects can also be calming and create the feeling of security.  Most children stop these habits on their own between two and four years of age.  If this habit continues, there is a possibility of causing problems with the growth of the mouth and alignment of permanent teeth.

The AAPD recommends as the teeth appear through the gums, parents can start brushing twice daily using a "smear," about the size of a grain of rice, of fluoridated toothpaste.  This amount is appropriate for children up to two years of age.  For children three to six years old, a "pea-size" amount can be dispensed on the brush.  Remember that young children will need assistance with brushing and excess toothpaste should be spit out, not swallowed.

According to the ADA, fluoride mouth rinses are not recommended for children under six years of age.  Children often have not learned to rinse effectively and can end up swallowing the mouth rinse instead.  Always check manufacturer's labels for precautions.

For answers to additional questions or concerns, please visit the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry at www.aapd.org, the American Dental Association at www.ada.org or contact your local dentist.