Every child deserves a pain-free smile is the message being promoted by the Sudbury and District Health Unit during Oral Health Month in April.
To follow up on recommendations made in the Children's Dental Health Report released last August, the health unit's Dental Health Program will be running a public awareness campaign during April to help parents and caregivers increase their knowledge of children's oral health.
The campaign has two objectives - to promote the Children in Need of Treatment (CINOT) program and to reinforce the importance of caring for children's primary teeth.
"Primary teeth hold the spaces for permanent teeth and may still be in a child's mouth until the age of 13," said Julie Lahti, a dental hygienist with the health unit, in a news release. "Primary teeth help the child chew properly, speak clearly and make the adorable smile possible.
"Premature loss of primary teeth...can cause malocclusion (crooked teeth), which can result in jaw pain, as well as self-esteem issues. Oral health affects more than just teeth. A child with a toothache can have trouble eating, sleeping, speaking, concentrating and learning."
According to the dental report, more than 14 percent of six-year-old children in the health unit's service area had urgent dental treatment needs in 2003-04, which is higher than in previous studies.
The health unit offers a program for eligible children with urgent dental needs who have no dental plan and can't afford to pay for dental care. Preschool and elementary school-aged children may be eligible for the CINOT program if they have dental pain, infection, large cavities, bleeding gums or have mouth injuries.
The health unit encourages parents to make dental care a part of their child's everyday routine, which includes eating sugar-free snacks, brushing at least twice daily, having regular checkups and looking closely at their teeth for signs of early decay.
For more information about children's oral health or CINOT, call the health unit at 522-9200, ext. 225.