Skip all navigation Skip to page navigation

Healthy Smiles for Your Children

February 2009 is National Children’s Dental Health Month

Release Date: February 26, 2009
Contact: Carol Schriber, 919-733-9190

RALEIGH, N.C. – Tooth decay is the most common, chronic infectious disease of childhood, more common than asthma.  It starts as a white spot on the tooth that may turn into a cavity (tooth decay) leading to tooth loss, pain and suffering. 

The 2007-2008 N.C. Oral Health Section’s kindergarten and 5th grade assessment data showed 26 percent of 5th graders had cavities or fillings in their permanent teeth, with 4 percent of them having cavities that needed treatment.  Among children entering kindergarten, 39 percent already had cavities or fillings in their baby teeth, and 18 percent of them had cavities needing treatment. 

“Treatment alone can not solve the problem of dental decay,” said Dr. Rebecca King, chief of the Oral Health Section in the N.C. Division of Public Health.  “Tooth decay in children can be prevented by practicing good oral hygiene habits, eating a balanced diet, getting dental sealants, using fluoride toothpaste, drinking fluoridated water and visiting the dentist regularly.”

One of the best public health achievements has been fluoridation of drinking water.  Fluoridation greatly reduces the amount of tooth decay in children and adults.  In 2009, over 88 percent of North Carolinians who drink water from community water systems are receiving the benefits of fluoride.  Fluoride protects teeth from decay by making the outer layer of the tooth (enamel) stronger.  During childhood while teeth are forming, fluoride becomes a permanent part of the tooth enamel.  After the teeth are formed, fluoride strengthens and repairs the tooth enamel.  Fluoridation is safe and the least expensive way to prevent tooth decay.

Parents can save money and avoid costly dental bills by preventing tooth decay in their children.  Parents can help their children to have healthy smiles by following these simple steps:

  • Until your child is able to tie her or his shoelaces, brush your child’s teeth twice a day with a smear of fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss your child’s teeth daily, wherever the teeth touch.
  • Feed your child healthy meals and snacks that are low in sugar.
  • Visit the dentist regularly.
  • Ask your dentist if your child would benefit from dental sealants.  Dental sealants are thin plastic coatings that cover the chewing surfaces of the back teeth.  Dental sealants prevent cavities.

The N.C. Oral Health Section provides preventive dental services to school-age children and education services to children and their parents.  Last year, the section provided about 12,000 sealants for children at high risk for tooth decay during school-based sealant projects in targeted elementary schools across the state.  This saves state taxpayers money by preventing higher costs in Medicaid claims for treatment of ongoing dental care.  For more information about preventing dental decay, visit the OHS Web site at



 Ready NC Connect NC