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Children's Dental Health Month: Good oral health habits begin at birth

FEBRUARY You know regular dental check-ups, healthy food choices and daily brushing and flossing are essential for healthy teeth, but did you know there are important steps for parents to take with infants and toddlers too?

During National Children's Dental Health Month this February, Dental Clinics North and the Health Department of Northwest Michigan ask you to help your child develop a smile that lasts a lifetime by starting healthy regimens at birth.

"A healthy smile is an important part of overall health and wellbeing," said Rose Straebel, Oral Health Coordinator for Dental Clinics North. "Good oral health habits include scheduling your child's first dentist visit by age one, and regular dental check-ups throughout life. Eating a balanced diet, limiting snacks, daily dental care at home, and adequate use of fluoride are the keys to a child's future of healthy teeth and gums."

Because fluoride is such an important way to prevent cavities and build strong teeth, the Health Department of Northwest Michigan's WIC Programs began applying fluoride varnish to children's teeth a few years ago. "It just flows with the nutritional and educational goals of the WIC Program," said Suzette Daly, RN, WIC Program Coordinator.

Here are some tips to help your infant or toddler join the "SuperSmile Team" right now:

Assisting toddlers and school-age children with brushing and flossing routines helps them remove the food and bacteria that can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Setting a good example by brushing your own teeth twice a day and flossing daily will reinforce these habits for your children. Decreasing the amount of sugary beverages like fruit juices, soft drinks and energy drinks consumed in a day can make a big difference in your teeth and your body. Also, it's not just the sugar in soft drinks that decays teeth; it's the acid too, making soda pop double trouble.

Dental Clinics North, a partnership of local health departments, has clinic locations in Alpena, Cheboygan, East Jordan, Gaylord, Mancelona, Traverse City, Harbor Springs, and West Branch. The clinics, operated by Michigan Community Dental Clinics, focus on serving persons enrolled in Medicaid, Healthy Kids Delta Dental, MIChild, Medicaid, Northern Dental Plan and the new Healthy Michigan Plan, as well as low-income uninsured adults and children. For more information on Dental Clinics North or the WIC Program, please call (800) 321-7070 or visit