February is Children’s Dental Health Month

Reading Time: 2 minutes

It’s February and you know what that means…National Children’s Dental Health Month! This month-long national health observance brings together thousands of dedicated professionals, healthcare providers, and educators to promote the benefits of good oral health to children, their caregivers, teachers and many others.

Did you know that cavities (also known as tooth decay) are one of the most common chronic diseases of childhood? Untreated cavities can cause pain, infections, and can lead to problems eating, speaking, and learning. In the United States, about 1 in 5 children aged 5 to 11 years have at least one untreated decayed tooth. In children 12 to 19 years old, it is closer to 1 in 7.

From the data above, we know that cavities are quite common in youngsters. The good news though is that cavities are preventable! If you’re a parent or caregiver, read on for some easy ways to prevent your child from developing cavities.

When thinking about your child’s dental health, think about the P-E-A-R-L-S of Wisdom:

PROTECT tiny teeth. Hey moms—did you know that your child’s future oral health starts with you? A mother’s oral health status is a strong predictor of her children’s oral health status. Oral health during pregnancy and infancy is especially important to set little ones up for a lifetime of good health. Experts recommend regular dental checkups before and during pregnancy.

ENSURE to wipe your baby’s gums after each meal. Even before those first little teeth appear, proper oral hygiene is a must! Cleaning decay-causing bacteria from your baby’s mouth on a regular basis can act as a safeguard to help protect teeth that have not yet erupted.

AVOID putting babies to bed with a bottle. Tooth decay can occur when a baby is put to bed with a bottle. Infants should finish their naptime or bedtime bottle before going to bed.

REMEMBER to brush your child’s teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste. For children younger than 2 years, consult with your dentist or doctor about when to start using fluoride toothpaste.

LIMIT drinks and food with added sugars for children. Encourage your child to eat more fruits and vegetables and have fewer fruit drinks, cookies, and candies. This gives your child the best possible start to good oral health.

SCHEDULE your child’s first dental visit by their first birthday or after their first tooth appears. Their tiny teeth matter! Check out one of our past blog posts for more information about why baby teeth matter.

For more tips on preventing cavities and promoting oral health, go to: https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/basics/childrens-oral-health/index.html.

Looking for resources?

Families with children ages five and younger can call Skagit County’s ABCD program at (360) 416-1500 for help finding dental care for their children. For families who quality, some benefits of the program include:

  • An initial dental exam
  • Two dental exams per year (6 months apart)
  • Three fluoride varnish applications per year
  • Two parent education sessions per child per year
  • Fillings and other dental work (as needed)  

For more information about the ABCD program, visit our webpage at: https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/HealthFamily/dental.htm.


Expecting

Safe at Home – Pregnancy during COVID-19

Reading Time: 4 minutes

An expecting mom anticipates the joy of her new baby in her arms while managing the anxiety of pregnancy and birth in the time of COVID-19.

It takes a village.

I’ve always heard that it takes a village to raise a child. From my own experience, I know that this is definitely true. During my first pregnancy, I woke up in the middle of the night wondering if I was ready to take on this huge new responsibility. During my second pregnancy, I nervously asked my husband if we were ready for two. There are still many days where I wonder if I’m doing this mothering thing right. But I can tell you there is one thing I know for certain: I am so glad I have a village.

When I interviewed my pregnant coworker Amber for our “Safe at Home” series, I had a lot of questions. For one, how is she handling the late stages of pregnancy during social distancing? She shared many of the same worries I had when pregnant.  But she is also facing a whole new set of daunting anxieties resulting from COVID-19.


Amber’s Story

Amber has the unusual challenge of both being pregnant and serving as an Epidemiologist performing COVID-19 case investigations for the Public Health Department. Strictly following social distancing, she works from home.  She spends the bulk of her days investigating the spread COVID-19 and taking actions to prevent further local transmission. This work is crucial to the wellbeing of Skagit. If anyone understands the importance of social distancing, it’s Amber! She sees how easily this virus can spread. So she and her husband are taking extra precautions to stay home and stay healthy.

Many people are worried about themselves and their loved ones getting sick from COVID-19. Amber also is concerned that her and her husband’s health could affect the birth experience of their child. She wondered out loud:

“If my husband shows any signs of infection when I go into labor, would he be able to be in the delivery room with me? What if I contract COVID-19? Would I be forced to isolate from my newly born child?”

NOTE: According to the World Health Organization, we don’t yet know if a sick mom can pass the virus to her unborn child or to the baby during delivery. Pregnant women who have tested positive for COVID-19, or who have coronavirus-like symptoms, should consult with their doctor. Together, they can make a birth and delivery plan to ensure safety for everyone. Medical professionals know the benefits of skin-to-skin between mothers and babies and encourage breastfeeding. Even moms diagnosed with COVID-19 or having symptoms can breastfeed and hold their baby if they practice good hygiene and wears a face mask.

The thought of being alone during labor is incredibly scary. Hospitals have a temporary restricted visitor policy. This policy allows one healthy labor companion in the delivery room of a healthy mom.  It is heartbreaking to think that so many families are having to deal with these concerns, but this what is needed to keep everyone safe from COVID-19.

So Amber’s mom won’t be able to visit her in the hospital. Family and friends won’t be able to drop to see her new baby once she comes home in order. They will need to keep everyone safe through social distancing. Thinking back to when I brought my own babies home from the hospital, it makes me sad to know Amber won’t have the same supports that eased me into motherhood—the village of family, friends, and community.  Before COVID-19, I and other moms routinely took these supports for granted.

To deal with these added stressors, Amber tries to focus on the things she has control over. She joked that she was eating lots of healthy foods because she isn’t able to go buy all the treats she’s craving. When the weather allows, she likes to take long walks. At the same time, she’s a bit weirded out by how people cross the street when they see her. But Amber is grateful people are taking the Governor’s orders seriously.

Amber finds hope and comfort knowing she will soon have her baby in her arms. She tries to remember that “there’s always something to look forward to…for the rest of her life.” Even though things are crazy right now, “there’s guaranteed joy on the way.”


Are you a pregnant or new mom?

There are many new (and free!) support services available to you during this time! Websites like WhattoExpect.com have compiled fantastic resources to help pregnant and new moms navigate this difficult time. Some of my favorites include virtual doula and lactation services, online childbirth classes through Lamaze International, and meditation apps to be used during labor.

Get connected with your local village!

Skagit County’s Welcome Baby program is unable to meet new parents at the birth centers at this time, but they are hoping to connect with Skagit families in their third trimester or those who have recently delivered. Call or text 360.922.2644 or send an email to welcomebaby@unitedwayskagit.org  For more information visit www.skagitwelcomebaby.com

Want other support services? Check out these March of Dimes resources below:

NOTE: Wonderful news! Since this interview, Amber and her husband Drew welcomed their baby daughter Isla to their family. They are all healthy and happy!

Amber – Skagit County Epidemiologist, COVID-19 Investigator, and mom to be!
Baby Isla – Born 4/13/2020!