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Posted February 7, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Children's dental health: It's all about awareness

By Kim Walter

FRONT ROYAL -- Kids and parents alike benefited from the special children's dental health event at Samuels Public Library on Thursday morning.

Preschool-aged children heard stories, sang songs, did crafts and even got a visit from the tooth fairy at the event, which was held to promote February as National Children's Dental Health Month.

Kathy Jacobs, youth services assistant at the library, decided to reach out to local practice Front Royal Dental Care to put on the event.

"I knew children's dental health was a focus this month, and I also knew about Dr. Broadhead's recent efforts to get kids thinking about taking care of their teeth," she said. "So I decided we'd do it, and do it big."

On Wednesday, Dr. Fred Broadhead visited with children during two morning sessions, while his sister, Dr. Daisy Broadhead, visited on Thursday morning.

After reading aloud to the children, Daisy Broadhead brought out "Brushasaurus," a stuffed dinosaur with a large, toothy smile. Children lined up to take turns brushing the toy's teeth, with a brush several times bigger than the ones they would use.

Broadhead encouraged each of the kids to try -- some jumped right in, brushing all possible surfaces in the dinosaur's mouth, but others were shy, worried that the brushing might hurt.

"Don't worry, Brushasaurus likes it," Broadhead told one boy who timidly took the toothbrush to the toy's teeth.

Children received a goody bag from the resident tooth fairy that included a toothbrush, toothpaste and a flossing device in the shape of an animal. Looks of excitement emerged as children browsed through their new things.

"It's all about awareness when it comes to kids taking care of their teeth and mouths," Broadhead said. "We want parents to be involved, and of course we want it all to seem fun and rewarding."

Broadhead told parents that a consistent oral care routine should be established when a baby's first tooth erupts, and she encouraged parents to bring their children to the dentist for a "happy visit."

"We just want the kids to get used to someone being in their mouths. That can be awkward, and probably scary for some, at first," she said. "But honestly, I think more adults are scared of dentists than kids."

Parents should begin to floss children's teeth when two teeth touch. Flossing should be a part of that, but not necessarily every day.

"Obviously the younger ones can't floss by themselves, but they need to know it's important to clean every surface," said Broadhead. "Cavities can form wherever spots are getting missed."

Broadhead also noted that children who are not able to rinse and spit out toothpaste should avoid flouride toothpaste.

"It's just so important for these things to start at home," she said. "The kids only see us for cleanings once every six months, and that can't be the only time they care about their teeth."

Studies have shown that cavities can lead to other diseases later in life. Broadhead said she worries that people have become too comfortable with having a cavity.

"People think it's just something you get, just like a lot of people think it's normal to need dentures when you get older," she said. "No. These are the strongest things in your body, and they are made to last. You just have to take care of them."

Broadhead said that cavities are both the No. 1 infectious disease among children, and also the biggest reason that kids miss school.

While many parents are aware of "bad sugar" from junk food and candy, sugar build-up on teeth can come from other sources they might not think of, like milk.

"I know, milk is great for your bones, but it breaks down to lactose, which is a form of sugar, which is something you don't want to leave on your teeth," she said. Broadhead suggested that kids drink water before bed to prevent buildup. She also said the last thing any one should do before bed is brush their teeth.

Cara Broadhead, Fred Broadhead's wife, said since October of last year her husband has worked intensively to reach out to area kids. For Halloween, the practice had a booth in town where kids could meet the tooth fairy and get basic tools for oral health.

The practice also donated dental care books to area schools and the library.

"When Fred started here five years ago, he realized that there just wasn't a lot of children's dental health awareness," she said. "For him, it's about education before treatment. You don't want your child going to the dentist for the first time because of a problem."

Daisy Broadhead just joined the practice in January, and said she's never seen so many generations of patients before.

"It's a very different patient population than I had before," she said. "Some kids love coming to the dentist, some are a bit more difficult, but it's all about getting the job done."

For more information on Front Royal Dental Care, look them up on Facebook or go to their website at www.frontroyaldentalcare.com.

Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or kwalter@nvdaily.com


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