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Don't ignore your children's teeth

February is Dental Health Awareness Month - a good time for parents and care givers to look at ways to keep their kids' teeth, gums and mouth healthy for a lifetime, according to the West Central Initiative (WCI).

Ignoring infants' and preschoolers' oral health can set the stage for serious health as well as social and emotional problems into adulthood, according to a report by The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services.

Dental problems in childhood can result in poor nutrition, pain, embarrassment, lost school days and occasionally severe or life-threatening infections.

Baby teeth are important and have several "jobs" including:

• They help your child eat and chew more easily.

• They help your child talk more clearly.

• They hold spaces open for the permanent teeth to come in.

Here are some helpful hints for a healthy mouth provided through WCI:

• Clean your child's teeth or gums after each feeding. Rinse the mouth out with water, at the very least.

• Never give a bottle in bed, or use sippy cups unless they contain only water. Why? Liquid from the bottle or sippy cup pools around the child's teeth, providing food for bacteria. The bacteria form acids that dissolve tooth enamel, causing decay.

• Bring your child in to see your dentist as soon as the first tooth erupts. Make sure to schedule regular dental appointments. The Early Childhood Dental Network (ECDN) offers dental outreach clinics throughout the region for children 0-12 whose families are on Minnesota Health Care Programs. For more information, visit

Free poster fun

Every year, the ECDN creates a fun fact and activity sheet for Dental Health Awareness Month. Download three different posters for your kids at

The ECDN is a nine-county multi-disciplinary collaborative project designed to increase awareness and education to all children and their families about the importance of oral health, and to increase access to dental care, specifically to those ages 0-12 who are on Minnesota Health Care Programs.

The ECDN is funded by Apple Tree Dental, the Bremer Foundation, Dakota Medical Foundation, Delta Dental of Minnesota, the Detroit Lakes Kiwanis, Fergus Falls Dental Group, PrimeWest, the Veden Trust, The McKnight Foundation's Minnesota Early Childhood Initiative and West Central Initiative.

West Central Initiative is a public foundation serving Becker, Clay, Grant, Douglas, Otter Tail, Pope, Stevens, Traverse and Wilkin counties in west central Minnesota.

WCI provides programs and resources in the areas of business and employment, workers and their families, and communities and the region. For more information about WCI programs, call 1-800-735-2239 or visit the

WCI website at