JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas –
The 359th Dental Squadron serves Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph's active-duty population, but it also provides valuable outreach to the youngest members of the community.
Children's Dental Health Month in February provides the 359th DS staff with an opportunity to visit Randolph Elementary School and offer oral hygiene tips to a captive audience of more than 600 students from kindergarten to fifth grade.
"We want to have an impact on the whole base, so this is a way we can reach the younger population and get them excited about dental care," Capt. (Dr.) Jessamy Thornton, 359th DS preventive dentistry officer in charge, said.
Thornton, accompanied by Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Jenkins and Senior Airman Louis Diaz, 359th DS prophylactic technicians, will visit Randolph Elementary School Feb. 19 and make presentations throughout the day during physical education classes.
She said the presentations will include a video, games that show which foods are good and bad for the students' teeth and dental models to show them how to brush their teeth correctly. Students will receive a package with educational materials, a tube of toothpaste and a toothbrush.
The Children's Dental Health Month observance will also include an informational table throughout the month at the JBSA-Randolph Medical Clinic.
Thornton said it's important that parents stress oral hygiene to their children and help the younger ones brush and floss their teeth.
"That duty really lies with the parents until their children get to an age when they can do it on their own," she said.
Parents should take great care with their baby's teeth, Thornton said.
"They need to be cleaning their baby's teeth and make sure they finish their bottle before going to sleep," she said.
The American Dental Association recommends placing only formula, milk or breast milk in bottles, not liquids such as sugar water, juice or soft drinks.
Thornton said people should brush their teeth at least twice a day, preferably after meals, using a soft-bristled toothbrush and a fluoride toothpaste.
"Angle the brush 45 degrees where the gums and teeth meet and brush for at least two minutes," she said. "Don't scrub really hard, which can damage the enamel; use a soft, circular motion."
Thornton said flossing is equally important.
"People should floss every day, typically before they go to bed," she said. "If you're not flossing, you're missing 40 percent of the tooth surface."
Thornton said parents should also instill good eating habits in their children to promote oral health.
"Foods like crackers and chips and acidic juices and fruits like oranges and lemons can cause severe decay," she said.
Other items associated with cavities include soft drinks, candy and foods saturated in syrup.
Foods associated with oral health - as well as overall health - are vegetables, fruits, grains, milk products, lean meat, fish, beans and nuts.
Thornton said another important component of oral health is visiting the dentist regularly - at least once a year for an examination and cleaning.