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Dental flight polishes oral health habits

Tech. Sgt. Jessica Chang, 30th Medical Operations Squadron dental technician, distributes toothbrushes to children from the Youth Center, Feb. 18, 2015, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The dental flight, within the 30th MDOS, has been observing National Children’s Dental Health Month, throughout February. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shane Phipps/Released)

Tech. Sgt. Jessica Chang, 30th Medical Operations Squadron dental technician, distributes toothbrushes to children from the Youth Center, Feb. 18, 2015, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The dental flight, within the 30th MDOS, has been observing National Children’s Dental Health Month, throughout February. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shane Phipps/Released)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE Calif. -- The dental flight, within the 30th Medical Operations Squadron, has been observing National Children's Dental Health Month, throughout February.

With an aim to raise awareness on the significance of developing good habits at an early age, VAFB is one of many armed-service installations, and dental organizations from around the nation, that has observed the month for decades.

"NCDHM is a month-long national observance that encourages all dental professionals to promote good oral health in children," said Rhodora Pablo, 30th MDOS dental hygienist. "We encourage them to brush twice a day, floss once a day, limit the number of times they eat sugary snacks, use fluoride rinse, wear mouth guards when playing sports and visit their dentist regularly."

With Vandenberg's dental clinic treating active-duty personnel only, healthcare providers have initiated a comprehensive outreach program to engage the base's youth.

"Although our clinic does not treat children, we are dedicated to fighting oral disease regardless of our patient empanelment," said Lt. Col. Jill Cherry, 30th MDOS dental flight commander. "NCDHM allows our staff to engage in outreach that we know can truly disrupt the course of oral disease - establishing good oral hygiene habits from childhood."

As part of the outreach, dental representatives have visited the base Youth Center and Child Development Center, interacting with children and instilling sound dental practices face-to-face.

"The Youth Center and CDC capture a fairly large percentage of our base's younger population," said Cherry. "The earlier you educate a child and help form a constructive habit, the greater chance of developing long lasting habits. Furthermore, our clinic typically visits these facilities every February, so they are also getting the message repeated to them for that additional reinforcement."

No longer being a mandatory Air Force observance, Pablo and her team have taken it upon themselves to keep the program alive on Vandenberg, and remain dedicated to fighting oral disease - at any age.

"In addition to our outreach, we have had a display table located at the main lobby of the medical clinic," said Pablo. "It has informational posters, brochures and dental supplies for parents and kids to see and take home. Good oral habits don't happen overnight, so it's ideal to start at an early age. Children are like sponges -- they absorb what they see, and hopefully learning good oral habits at an early age will carry them through adulthood."

Similar to all other aspects of healthcare, taking preventative measures in oral hygiene is crucial - especially at an early age.

"Every day we see the result of adult patients who had poor oral hygiene as children and teens," said Cherry. "Either they are struggling to develop the habits they never had growing up, or they are trying to maintain a mouth full of fillings, crowns and root canals. This does not need to be the future for our Team V children. Being armed with good oral hygiene practices could set our children up for a healthier adult dentition and less time in the dental chair."