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Public Health

February is nationally designated as Children’s Dental Health Month. This month-long health observance brings together dental professionals, health care providers and educators to promote the benefits of good oral health to children, their parents and other caregivers, teachers and others.  

Tooth decay, also known as the presence of cavities, is one of the most common chronic conditions of childhood in the United States. Untreated tooth decay can cause pain and infections that may lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing and learning. North Dakota Health and Human Services (HHS) oral health program (OHP) mission is to improve the oral health of all North Dakotans through prevention and education efforts. 

One of the ways the HHS oral health program is helping to meet the needs of North Dakota’s children is through SEAL!ND – a school-based sealant program. This program utilizes public health dental hygienists, private practice dentists and Federally Qualified Health Centers to provide oral health education, dental screenings, dental sealants and fluoride varnish treatments to thousands of at-risk children across the state.  

“Schools are an ideal place to reach children, teachers and caregivers,” said Toni Hruby, HHS oral health prevention coordinator. “Through these collaborations with outside partners, we are able to expand the reach of children served across the state.” 

SEAL!ND was able to provide screenings for 1,684 students, apply 2,460 fluoride varnish applications, protect 3,882 teeth with dental sealants and refer 930 students for further oral health treatment during the 2021-2022 school year. 

“Good oral health is a necessity for good overall health,” said Hruby. “Parents and caregivers can help children develop good oral health habits early in life to ensure they have a healthy mouth and body.” 

Tips for creating a healthy smile: 

  • Brush your teeth at least two times a day with fluoridated toothpaste 
  • Floss your teeth daily 
  • Eat a balanced diet  
  • Drink tap water and limit sugary drinks and snacks 
  • Avoid using cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and electronic nicotine or vaping products 
  • Replace your toothbrush every three to four months and after an illness 
  • Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings 
  • Talk to your dentist about fluoride varnish and sealants for your child  
    • Fluoride varnish is a protective coating that is painted on teeth to help prevent cavities and to help slow or stop cavities that have just started.  
    • Sealants prevent cavities by creating a barrier between the teeth and cavity-causing bacteria. Sealants also stop cavities from growing and can prevent the need for fillings.  

Not only is it important to know how to care for your smile at home, it is also important to schedule visits with your dentist. Learn more about the HHS OHP at hhs.nd.gov/health/oral-health-program. Follow their tips and schedule your child's next dentist appointment today! 

If families are looking for dental coverage, North Dakota Medicaid’s Health Tracks benefit pays for dental care including exams, cleanings, x-rays, sealants and fluoride treatment for enrolled children. There are no copays for qualifying families. For more information about Health Tracks, visit hhs.nd.gov/health-tracks.       


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