PARSIPPANY, New Jersey--Each year, more than 51 million school hours are lost as a result of problems related to tooth decay, the most common chronic childhood disease in America. Yet according to a recent survey by Trident, more than eight in 10 (84%) American parents don’t realize this. This is why Trident, in partnership with Oral Health America’s Smiles Across America program, and actor Chris O’Donnell announced in Los Angeles that they are teaming up to help fight cavities among the nation’s youth and address the need for oral disease prevention services. Tooth decay affects approximately half of all second graders and nearly 80% of 17-year-olds. Despite this, nearly three-quarters (74%) of U.S. parents don’t necessarily consider tooth decay to be a chronic childhood disease. However, many parents do recognize that--if left untreated--tooth decay can negatively impact a child’s well-being, self-esteem, or even concentration level. The cause resonated with O’Donnell, someone accustomed to striking a smile on many red carpets. “As a parent of five children, I know first-hand the importance of healthy dental habits for my family,” he said. “The Smiles Across America program helps to not only promote healthy habits, but also provides critical dental care services through schools reaching those kids that might not otherwise have access. I’m thrilled to be joining this effort to help celebrate and protect smiles.”The importance of education It’s no surprise that education can play a large role in preventing cavities. Nine in 10 (92%) parents believe cavities in children are preventable, yet a majority of parents (86%) struggle to get a child to take care of their teeth. While convincing a child to take proper care of his or her teeth is no easy task, here are a few important reminders for parents:• The foods children consume also can have an impact on oral health. For example, foods such as cheeses, fruits and vegetables can help build strong teeth and gums. On the flip side, overindulging in foods that are sticky or sugary can have a negative impact on teeth and gums. That’s why it’s important to have children floss once a day to remove food and plaque that can get stuck between and on teeth.• Clinical studies have shown that chewing sugarless gum after meals helps fight cavities. The Trident survey uncovered that less than half (41%) of parents surveyed who believe cavities are preventable know the role that sugarless gum-chewing plays as a cavity-fighting tactic. And of those parents surveyed who allow their children to chew gum, only one-third (34%) say their child’s gum chewing is likely to happen after a meal, when it has the most impact on fighting cavities.• It’s also important that children receive dental check-ups twice a year to ensure that they are taking proper care of their teeth and gums, and have X-rays taken to check for cavities that may not be easily identified. • Parents can help children take proper care of their teeth by teaching them the correct way to brush. Brushing with a soft-bristle toothbrush on the front, back, inner and outer surfaces, as well as their tongue--with short, gentle back and forth motions--can help children maintain good oral health. It’s important for children to brush at least twice a day for two minutes each time using no more than a pea-size amount or fluoride toothpaste. Raising the goal Smiles Across America supports dental services for more than 250,000 children annually in underserved communities nationwide. Smiles Across America pledged to deliver one million sealants, a critical preventative oral health care procedure for children, by the end of 2010. The program has already reached that goal and has now raised it to two million sealants by 2020. “Through this program, we’re committed to raising public awareness about the importance of healthy mouths for healthy lives,” said Beth Truett, president and CEO of Oral Health America. “Our three-year partnership with Trident has enabled us to expand our area of service in 2010, helping us to be well on our way to meeting our increased goal.” Smiles Across America provides its network with the funding and technical assistance in the areas of communication and coalition building, enabling them to more than double the number of children who receive oral care and address barriers to care such as lack of resources and transportation, low literacy and language diversity. “We believe that every family should have access to preventative dental care for healthy smiles,” said Becky McAninch, senior brand manager, Trident marketing. “Smiles Across America provides such an important service to communities around the country. We’re proud to help aid their efforts.”How to get involved Purchase any pack of Trident gum from Sept. 13, 2010, through Sept. 19, 2010, and five cents per pack will be donated to Smiles Across America. In addition, parents can follow campaign efforts on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tridentgum.For more information, go to www.tridentgum.com/.To read more about Trident Gum, go to Trident Gum.To comment on this topic, go to community.pennwelldentalgroup.com/.