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Written by Alicia P., Sprout Volunteer

February is Children’s Dental Health Month. Since 1949, the American Dental Association has sponsored the month to raise awareness among families and policymakers about the importance to children of good oral health habits. During this month, dental professionals across the country will focus on the preventive oral care of this nation’s children (About.com). As parents, guardians or caregivers, diligence in making sure children are brushing and flossing is very important. It is best to make brushing teeth seem like a fun activity in children’s daily routines. Singing songs, doing crafts, making dentist visits non-stressful are all ways to make children okay (or even excited) about taking care of their teeth and going to the dentist.

According to www.saveyoursmile.com and www.orajel.com, children do not develop the fine motor skills to effectively clean their own teeth until they are 5 or 6 years old. Parents are then responsible for making sure their children’s teeth are clean. The websites offered some suggestions in making brushing teeth fun so children gain good hygiene habits that will last:

  • Allow your children to brush your teeth. You should laugh a lot and make it fun for the child. Then allow them to “brush” their own teeth. Finish by brushing your child’s teeth.
  • Have your child brush their favorite doll’s teeth before you brush theirs. Remember always allow them to “brush” their own teeth and then follow up by brushing their teeth correctly.
  • Make tooth brushing appear as a fun activity they are missing out on. Go up to the bathroom eager to brush. Laugh a lot and make a lot of noise
  • Use a sticker chart in the bathroom. Each time your child has a thorough brushing, he or she can choose a sticker or star and put it on the poster
  • At bedtime, kids may want to invite a favorite stuffed animal into the bathroom to watch as they brush.
  • Use cute toothbrushes and tasty toothpaste
  • Brush to music- a song normally lasts between two and three minutes, and that is the ideal amount of time needed to effectively clean your teeth. Brushing to the rhythm of the music will make it more interesting.
  • Let your child use an electric toothbrush
  • Ask your dentist for disclosing solution or tablets (the little red pills you chew to see how clean your teeth are) and have a contest. Brush your teeth with your child at the same time, and when you are finished use the solution or pill to see who has cleaner teeth.

Here are some places in Erie County that offer free/reduced fee dental care according to The Pennsylvania Dental Association website:

Community Health Net- Booker T. Washington Center
1720 Holland Street
Erie, PA 16503
Phone: 814-456-8548
Qualifications: MA/Sliding Fee

Community Health Net- Oral Surgery and General Dentistry Services
Martin Luther King Center
312 Chestnut Street
Erie, PA 16507
Phone: 814-452-4262
Qualifications: MA/Sliding Fee

Community Health Net- Stairways Dental
2922 State Street
Erie, PA 16504
Phone: 454-4028
Qualifications: MA/Sliding Fee

St. Paul’s Neighborhood Free Clinic
1608 Walnut Street
Erie, PA 16502
(814) 454-8755

Tri-State Dental Hygiene School
5757 West Ridge Road
Erie, PA 16506
Phone: 814-838-7673
Services: Fee/Low Cost Cleaning

Plaza Dental Associated
702 West 34th Street
Erie, PA 16508
Phone: 814-868-5411
Qualifications: MA/Sliding Fee