Skip to main content

Military Health System

Keeping kids’ teeth healthy during a pandemic: brush, floss, no sugar

Image of Military health personnel wearing a face mask examines the mouth of a child. Army Lt. Col. Min Kim, a pediatric dentist, checks the jaw alignment of Seth Kennebeck, then 9 years old, during a 2019 dental exam at the Carius Dental Clinic, 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-U.S. Combined Division. Seth had two teeth removed during his visit. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Diandra Harrell)

Recommended Content:

Children's Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

  February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, and when it comes to pediatric dental health, you can’t but help think of the mantra:

'Brush after every meal, floss daily, see the dentist twice a year for checkups, and avoid sugary foods and drinks.’

Beginning these habits as infants and toddlers can lead to a lifetime of dental health, reducing the incidence of cavities (dental caries), gingivitis (gum disease), and lost teeth as adults.

But during the pandemic, what advice do parents need to help keep their children’s teeth healthy when pediatric dental clinics may be closed on bases?

In a non-COVID-19 world, “My primary advice for parents can be broken into three main areas: examinations, home care, and diet,” said Air Force Col. John Kersey Jr., a pediatric dentist at the 86th Dental Squadron, Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

“Examinations should start with children when their teeth erupt, usually around 6 months of age. They should be seen subsequently at least every year,” Kersey advised.

“If their risk of dental disease is high, they may need to be examined much more frequently. It is better for the child and the parents if disease or problems with dental development are treated early,” he said.

“Home care should include brushing the teeth from the first baby tooth to the last adult teeth,” Kersey explained. While parents need to control tooth brushing at first, “as their child’s dexterity increases, parents can begin to transition to more supervised brushing with a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste after age 2,” Kersey said. “When teeth start to touch one another, flossing once a day should be added.”

As for diet, sugar is the bane of healthy teeth.

“Tooth decay, or dental caries, is caused by the Streptococcus mutans bacteria that takes sugar in the diet and converts it to acid, which demineralizes teeth,” Kersey said. “This acid dissolves the hard, calcified tooth tissue. If de-mineralization predominates in the mouth due to frequent sugar intake, dental cavities will be the result. These cavities will continue to enlarge until they reach the center of the tooth causing pain.”

He also noted the importance of mouth guards to protect teeth as children play sports or take part in fast-moving activities, such as biking or skiing.

The pandemic had affected what procedures were being conducted at Ramstein, with those producing aerosols, such as drilling for fillings and dental cleanings, not being scheduled during the first year of the pandemic. Full-spectrum dental care returned there Jan. 18 after a “cautious ramp-up,” Kersey said.

Army Lt. Col Leslie Oakes, a dentist formerly stationed at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland; and currently stationed at Fort Irwin, California, said: “In general, dentistry was handicapped early on in the pandemic because funding and the supply of Personal Protective Equipment were going toward critical needs.”

However, by July 1, Walter Reed Bethesda “reopened to conducting about 80% of services we did before.” That contrasts with the rural Fort Irwin, about halfway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, which is expected to begin providing routine care again around the beginning of March, according to Oakes.

“I’m curious to see what the past year has done to the community’s dental health,” Oakes commented, especially if children did not see a dentist during that time. She noted that emergent cavities in children can quickly turn into major cavities and other dental issues that should be addressed during checkups.

You also may be interested in...

Men's Health Month - Screening

Infographic
6/1/2022
Men's Health Month - Screening

Not all illnesses and injuries demonstrate symptoms immediately. This #MensHealthMonth, be sure to ask your doctor which screenings might be right for you. #TakeChargeofYourHealth www.health.mil/menshealth

Recommended Content:

June | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Men's Health

Men's Health Month - Taking Charge

Infographic
6/1/2022
Men's Health Month - Taking Charge

June is #MensHealthMonth. Your strength is rooted in your health and well-being, so #BeStrong and make sure you’re staying up to date on all health screenings and tests. www.health.mil/menshealth

Recommended Content:

June | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Men's Health

Men's Health Month - Stigma

Infographic
6/1/2022
Men's Health Month - Stigma

#DYK? Men are 2x less likely than women to use preventive health care services. You can be the one to fight the stigma. Take action and schedule your recommended health screenings ASAP. #TakeChargeofYourHealth #MensHealthMonth www.health.mil/menshealth

Recommended Content:

June | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Men's Health

Child Vision Awareness Month

Infographic
5/19/2022
Child Vision Awareness Month

June is #ChildrensVisionAwarenessMonth! If you’ve noticed your child is squinting at the SmartBoard in classes or holding their books inches from their face at home, it might be time to take them to an optometrist. Check out @TRICARE for what services might be covered: https://t.co/5M2eOFraNc

Recommended Content:

June | Children's Health

National Infant Immunization Week

Infographic
3/15/2022
National Infant Immunization Week

It’s more important than ever to help protect children from vaccine-preventable diseases. This #NationalInfantImmunizationWeek make sure your child and children around them are safe by ensuring your infant is properly vaccinated.

Recommended Content:

April | Immunizations | Children's Health

Dental Health Main

Infographic
1/13/2022
Dental Health Main

Dental and oral health is critical to overall readiness, and poor dental hygiene and preventive practices can impact deployability. #dentalhealth

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Dental Care | Dental Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Dental Awareness Deployment

Infographic
1/13/2022
Dental Awareness Deployment

A force that is not dentally prepared may see a fivefold increase in deployed dental emergencies. Regular dental care is needed to maintain readiness and deployability. #dentalhealth

Recommended Content:

Dental Health | TRICARE Dental Care | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Dental Statistics

Infographic
1/12/2022
Dental Statistics

Dental Did You Know? Dental issues can negatively impact your deployability. Stay mission ready and keep on top of your dental care. #dentalhealth

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Dental Care | Dental Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Teeth

Infographic
1/12/2022
Teeth

Your teeth are your tools for eating – not for opening bottles or packages. Stick to using your hands to open containers. #dentalhealth

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Dental Care | Dental Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Dental Health Reminder Avoid Tobacco

Infographic
1/12/2022
Dental Health Reminder Avoid Tobacco

Cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and other forms of tobacco cause oral cancer, gum disease, and other oral health problems. Avoid using tobacco to maintain your oral health. #dentalhealth

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Dental Care | Dental Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Food and Beverage

Infographic
1/12/2022
Food and Beverage

#DYK: Drinks and foods high in sugar can lead to damage to your teeth. Skip the soda to protect your teeth. #dentalhealth

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Dental Care | Dental Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Dental Health Awareness: Reminder - Make Dentist Appointment

Infographic
1/12/2022
Dental Health Awareness: Reminder - Make Dentist Appointment

Things to do on your birthday: 1. Eat cake. 2. Brush your teeth. 3. Make your annual dentist appointment. #dentalhealth

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Dental Care | Dental Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Dental Health Awareness

Infographic
1/12/2022
Dental Health Awareness

DYK: Your birth month is the perfect time to make your yearly appointments – don’t neglect your teeth and make your dentist appointment this month. #dentalhealth

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Dental Care | Dental Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Dental Health Awareness. Things to do in your birthday month?

Infographic
1/12/2022
Dental Health Awareness. Things to do in your birthday month?

Is your birthday this month? Happy birthday! Now is the perfect time to schedule your annual dentist appointment. #dentalhealth

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Dental Care | Dental Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Dental Health Awareness 2

Infographic
1/12/2022
Dental Health Awareness 2

Keep yourself mission ready by taking care of your teeth. Schedule your dental appointment to maintain readiness. #dentalhealth

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Dental Care | Dental Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness
<< < 1 2 > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 2
Refine your search
Last Updated: February 18, 2021
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery