Health & Nutrition

Explaining oral health concepts to young children

As we move into February, our second month of setting healthy habits for 2023, FIRST 5 Santa Clara County celebrates National Children’s Dental Health Month. This is the perfect time to promote the benefits of proper oral hygiene because developing these dental habits from the beginning helps children get the best start on a lifetime of health. Teaching young children to keep their brand-new teeth healthy and clean can be challenging especially with the vast amount of information available to do so. The American Dental Association helps to simplify all this.

Teach children the importance of their teeth by discussing:

  • Why we need teeth. Our teeth are important because they help us talk properly, chew our food and give us beautiful smiles!
  • Characteristics of our teeth. Our teeth are hard, have some sharp or cutting edges and are strong. If our teeth were soft and weak, we couldn’t chew, it would be hard to talk, and our teeth might break.
  • The number and purpose of baby (primary) teeth. When did you get your teeth? [When you were a baby.] Why do babies need teeth? [To learn how to talk and so that they can eat solid food.] How many baby teeth do children get? [Children get 20 teeth by the time they are 3 or 4 years old.]
  • Sets of teeth in a lifetime. Will you have these 20 teeth your whole life? [No.] What happens to your teeth when you get to be 5 years old or older? [Your teeth start to come out and you lose your baby teeth. As children get bigger, they need bigger, stronger teeth. Your 20 baby teeth will be replaced by 32 permanent teeth.] These permanent teeth are made to last the rest of your life! So, we get two sets of teeth during our life: baby teeth (primary teeth) and adult teeth (permanent teeth).

Teeth are a special part of our body and do several very important jobs throughout our lives.

Teach children that cleaning our teeth helps keep them strong and healthy by discussing:

  • What can you do to keep your teeth clean and healthy? [Brush your teeth.] How often should you brush your teeth? [Twice a day.] Why do you use toothpaste? [Cleans better than just water, gets the food off your teeth, makes your teeth stronger, makes your mouth taste good.] How much fluoride toothpaste should you put on your toothbrush? [You only need a very little bit of toothpaste on your toothbrush — about the size of a little green pea.] Move the toothbrush back and forth gently in short strokes. Brush the top, front, and back sides of each tooth. Use a child-size toothbrush that is easy to hold. Get a new toothbrush when the bristles are bent and worn out.
  • What is plaque. When you brush your teeth at night, they feel clean and your mouth tastes good, if you don’t brush your teeth before going to bed, how does your mouth feel when you wake up in the morning? [Tastes bad, smells bad, teeth feel sticky.] That is because there is something else that gets on your teeth besides the food you eat. It’s called plaque. Although you can’t see it, plaque is a sticky, clear film that is forming on your teeth all the time.
  • How plaque contributes to cavities. Plaque is bad for your teeth because it contains germs. The germs in the plaque can hurt your teeth by making a little hole called a cavity. What do you think happens if you take a nice strong tooth and put holes in it? [It isn’t as strong anymore. The tooth gets weaker.] Plaque and cavities make our teeth weaker that’s why it is so important to brush all the plaque off our teeth. You should brush two times a day, once in the morning and then before going to bed at night.
  • Proper nutrition. There is another way we can help keep our teeth clean and healthy. That is by eating and drinking healthy foods. The foods we eat are just as important for keeping our teeth healthy as they are for keeping our bodies healthy. Eating a mix of healthy foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner is the best way to keep your teeth and whole body in good shape. Don’t drink too much sugary drinks or eat too many sweets.

Now we know how important it is to keep our teeth clean. We should brush two times a day, remove plaque and eat healthy foods.

Teach children why it is important to visit the dentist by discussing:

  • Why is it important to visit the dentist? The dentist is a friendly doctor who will help keep your teeth healthy and strong.
  • The role of the dentist.
  • The dentist’s office- What interesting things did you see in your dentist’s office? [Discuss answers, which might include the exam chair, special light, special tools, dental mask and gloves, etc.] Your dentist has all sorts of interesting things in the office. The special chair moves up and down so that people of different sizes can sit in it, and the dentist can see easily into all their mouths. The light helps your dentist see into mouths, too. Your dentist also has some other special things in the office. The little mirror lets your dentist see your back teeth; the “feeler” tool helps the dentist count your teeth; the x-ray machine takes pictures of the insides of your teeth; the bib protects your clothing; and there is even a little hose to spray water into your mouth.
  • The dental team- What other people might you see at your dentist’s office? Who else works there? [Receptionist, dental assistant, dental hygienist.] The receptionist works at the desk and greets you when you come in. The dental assistant helps the dentist by getting the exam room ready. The dental hygienist also helps the dentist and may clean your teeth with special cleaners.
  • The dental exam- What is your dentist looking for when checking your teeth? Your dentist counts your teeth, sees if you are brushing properly, checks to make sure your teeth are growing the correct way, and looks for cavities. Your dentist also checks your tongue and the inside of your mouth to make sure they are healthy, too! If you have any questions about your teeth or how to take care of them, ask your dentist. Your dentist is a friendly doctor who wants you to have healthy, shining teeth.

Teaching children about their teeth, how to take care of their teeth daily and visiting a dentist for regular check-ups are three fundamental components for lifelong bright and healthy smiles!!

Please visit our Oral Health Care page for more information on age-appropriate oral health care tips and community resources for oral health education, dental insurance and dental clinics.

Health & Nutrition, Parent Support & Resources

Get Ready: Ask Your Child’s Doctor

Ask Your Child’s Doctor if They Will Offer the COVID Vaccine for Children Ages 6 Months to 4 Years

Ask your child’s regular doctor TODAY if they will offer COVID vaccine, when available.

Regular visits to the doctor help keep your child healthy and identify any health issues early on.
Your child’s doctor can vaccinate them for COVID and make sure they are up to date on other vaccinations.

If your child does not have a regular doctor, call (866) 967-4677 for assistance enrolling in government programs or health coverage, or visit:

770 South Bascom Ave
San Jose, CA 95128
Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Visit sccFreeVax.org for more information.
Call 711 for Hearing and Speech Relay Service.

Health & Nutrition

Meals for Kids

Free Summer Meals For All Kids 18 and Under!

All kids in San Mateo County and Santa Clara County can eat healthy meals during the summer of 2022! There is no documentation or registration required.

Enter your address, city, or zip code to find a summer meal provider near you.

Health & Nutrition

Infant Formula

Families across the nation are feeling the impact of the infant formula shortage. The purpose of this site is to provide the latest information about the shortage and connect California families in need of formula to helpful resources. 

Parents and caregivers who have a hard time finding formula should:

  • Call their healthcare provider to see if they have in-office samples or can suggest a similar formula.
  • NOT dilute formula, NOT make homemade formula, and NOT provide toddler formula.
  • Reach out to their local WIC office if they are current WIC participants or are eligible for WIC.
  • Try another brand of formula, if available. Babies usually tolerate alternative products except in the case of special therapeutic formula. For babies on therapeutic formula, consult with a healthcare provider first to get help or to discuss alternatives.

How can I support families impacted by the shortage?

Successful support and communications around the infant formula shortages should affirm parent’s concern about formula shortages and necessitate an approach that is individualized, respectful, and sensitive to the needs of both non-breastfeeding and partially breastfeeding families.

Health & Nutrition

Infant Formula Shortage

The recent recall of certain 2022 Abbott powdered formulas, along with the impacts of the ongoing pandemic, has led to periodic shortages of major brands of infant formula. The infant formula supply chain problems have affected all consumers, including California families receiving formula through the Women Infants and Child (WIC) program. 

The Community Care Licensing Division, Child Care Program would like to expand awareness regarding the shortage and provide the following resources to help safely navigate the situation. Please visit the following links from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) websites and share this information with other providers, families, and with anyone you think may benefit from this information: 

Parents or caregivers, who are having difficulty obtaining infant formula for their child at home, should reach out to their child’s pediatrician about safe and appropriate feeding alternatives. 

To learn more about what measures are being taken to address the shortage please visit: 

For any additional inquiries about this email please refer to your local regional office.  

Health & Nutrition, Parent Support & Resources

FDA to approve COVID-19 vaccine for kids under 6

Moderna is seeking to be the first to offer COVID-19 vaccine for the youngest American children, as it asked the Food and Drug Administration Thursday to clear low-dose shots for babies, toddlers and preschoolers.

Frustrated families are waiting impatiently for a chance to protect the nation’s littlest kids as all around them people shed masks and other public health precautions — even though highly contagious coronavirus mutants continue to spread. Already about three-quarters of children of all ages show signs they’ve been infected at some point during the pandemic.

Moderna submitted data to the Food and Drug Administration that it hopes will prove two low-dose shots can protect children younger than 6 — although the effectiveness wasn’t nearly as high in kids tested during the omicron surge as earlier in the pandemic.

“There is an important unmet medical need here with these youngest kids,” Dr. Paul Burton, Moderna’s chief medical officer, told The Associated Press. Two kid-size shots “will safely protect them. I think it is likely that over time they will need additional doses. But we’re working on that.”

Moderna submitted data to the Food and Drug Administration that it hopes will prove two low-dose shots can protect children younger than 6 — although the effectiveness wasn’t nearly as high in kids tested during the omicron surge as earlier in the pandemic.
“There is an important unmet medical need here with these youngest kids,” Dr. Paul Burton, Moderna’s chief medical officer, told The Associated Press. Two kid-size shots “will safely protect them. I think it is likely that over time they will need additional doses. But we’re working on that.”

Moderna’s vaccine isn’t the only one in the race. Pfizer is soon expected to announce if three of its even smaller-dose shots work for the littlest kids, months after the disappointing discovery that two doses weren’t quite strong enough.

Whether it’s one company’s shots or both, FDA vaccine chief Dr. Peter Marks said the agency will “move quickly without sacrificing our standards” in deciding if tot-sized doses are safe and effective.

While questions are swirling about what’s taking so long, Marks pointedly told lawmakers earlier this week that the FDA can’t evaluate a product until a manufacturer completes its application. In a statement Thursday, the FDA said it will schedule a meeting to publicly debate Moderna’s evidence with its independent scientific advisers but that the company still must submit some additional data. Moderna expects to do so next week.

“It’s critically important that we have the proper evaluation so that parents will have trust in any vaccines that we authorize,” Marks told a Senate committee.

If FDA clears vaccinations for the littlest, next the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would have to recommend who needs them — all tots or just those at higher risk from COVID-19.

“It’s very important to get the youngest children vaccinated” but “moving quickly doesn’t mean moving sloppily,” said Dr. Philip Landrigan, a pediatrician and public health expert at Boston College. FDA must “see if it’s safe. They need to see if it’s effective. And they need to do so swiftly. But they won’t cut corners.”

Many parents are desperate for whichever vaccine gets to the scientific finish line first.

“We’ve been kind of left behind as everybody else moves on,” said Meagan Dunphy-Daly, a Duke University marine biologist whose 6-year-old daughter is vaccinated — but whose 3-year-old and 18-month-old sons are part of Pfizer’s trial.

RELATED: Dr. Fauci says the ‘US is out of the pandemic phase’

The family continues to mask and take other precautions until it’s clear if the boys got real vaccine or dummy shots. If it turns out they weren’t protected in the Pfizer study and Moderna’s shots are cleared first, Dunphy-Daly said she’d seek them for her sons.

“I will feel such a sense of relief when I know my boys are vaccinated and that the risk of them getting a serious infection is so low,” she said.

Read more at KTVU

Health & Nutrition

Oral Health For Any Age

Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease found in young children. In Santa Clara County, roughly half of low-income children have a history of cavities before entering Kindergarten. Oral health disease can impact children’s growth, speech, development, school readiness, and overall quality of life. To support children’s oral health, FIRST 5 invests in programs that support prevention, early identification, and treatment of tooth decay.

FIRST 5 partners with The Healthier Kids Foundation to provide oral health education and connect families to dental insurance and dental clinics.

SmileFirst Oral Education provides interactive and informative presentations to all ages about oral health, dental hygiene, and preventing tooth decay in young children as well as the whole family. The program offers free 30-minute informative workshops for parents and caregivers available in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese via Zoom. For more information about SmileFirst or if you’re interested in attending an oral health workshop, please email [email protected], or call 408.600.3588.

The DentalFirst program screens children 6 months to 18 years old for undetected dental issues and assists them with accessing follow-up dental care utilizing licensed dentists. For more information on DentalFirst, please contact [email protected], or call 408.564.5114 x231.

Prevention & Guidance Tips

Research shows that nearly 30% of children ages 2-5 have dental disease in the United States. By the time children are 5 or 6, a whopping 51% enter school with tooth decay.

Following these steps will help prevent tooth decay. Make sure your child has the best oral health for years to come!

PRENATAL TIPS FOR MOM

  • Visit a dentist every 6 months
  • Brush for 2 minutes, 2X a day with fluoride toothpaste
  • Floss daily
  • Choose low-sugar foods
  • Chew gum with xylitol 2-3 times per day.

BEFORE YOUR BABY HAS TEETH

  • Clean gums with a soft infant toothbrush or cloth after each feeding
  • Use unfluoridated toothpaste for children under 2 years old (use a “rice grain-sized” amount of toothpaste)
  • Visit a dentist once the first tooth appears and then every 6 months after that

AS SOON AS YOUR CHILD’S TEETH APPEAR

  • Brush for 2 minutes, 2X a day with fluoride toothpaste (use a “pea-size” amount of toothpaste)
  • Floss daily between your child’s teeth
  • Visit the dentist regularly for routine checkups and fluoride varnish treatments.

If your child has health coverage through Medi-Cal or a Covered California health plan, they also have dental coverage and can go to the dentist for regular checkups and care.

  • COVERED CALIFORNIA: Contact your health plan to find a dentist or to learn more about your dental care options. For more information, visit www.coveredca.com or call (800) 300-1506.
  • MEDI-CAL: To find a dentist that accepts Medi-Cal, call (800) 322-6384, or look online at dental.dhcs.ca.gov.