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Public Health

February is Children’s Dental Health Month

February is nationally designated as Children’s Dental Health Month. In observance, North Dakota Health and Human Services (HHS) joins dental professionals, health care providers, educators and other partners in promoting good oral health to children, their parents and caregivers, teachers and others.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cavities (tooth decay) are the most common chronic disease of childhood in the United States. During the 2021-2022 school year, approximately 24% of North Dakota’s third grade children had untreated cavities. (1)

The Oral Health Program in HHS supports children’s dental health through prevention, education and SEAL!ND – a school-based sealant program. This program uses public health dental hygienists, private practice dental professionals and Federally Qualified Health Centers to provide oral health education, dental screenings, sealants and fluoride varnish treatments to thousands of children across the state.

“Schools are an ideal place to reach children, teachers and caregivers,” said Toni Hruby, HHS oral health prevention coordinator. “Through collaborations with schools and other partners, we are able to serve more children.”

SEAL!ND was able to provide screenings for 2,284 students, apply 3,935 fluoride varnish applications, protect 3,899 teeth with dental sealants and make 1,536 referrals for further oral health treatment during the 2022-2023 school year.

In HHS, North Dakota Medicaid also supports children’s dental health. 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.

HHS encourages North Dakotans of all ages to care for their smiles by following these tips: 

  • Brush teeth at least twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste
  • Floss 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 toothbrushes every three to four months and after an illness
  • Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings
  • Talk to a dentist about fluoride varnish and sealants for children to prevent cavities

In addition to daily dental care at home, HHS also encourages North Dakotans to schedule an annual checkup with a dentist. Learn more about oral health and the HHS Oral Health Program at hhs.nd.gov/health/oral-health-program.

SOURCE: (1) North Dakota statewide Basic Screening Survey

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