(ARA) - When you're a NASCAR driver like Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, nothing makes you smile like a trip to victory lane.
But for millions of children in this country, that smile is impossible. Severe tooth decay often causes children to hide their smiles, and they're unable to eat, sleep or pay attention in class because of the pain.
Children's dental health is a major concern when you consider that:
* One third of all children in America are without dental insurance.
* More than 16 million children in the U.S. have untreated tooth decay, more than any other chronic infectious disease, including asthma, early-childhood obesity and diabetes.
* Approximately 80 percent of tooth decay in this country is suffered by 25 percent of its children.
* Household economic disadvantage is the single best predictor of tooth decay in children.
* 51 million school hours are lost each year to untreated cavities.
That's why Biffle teamed up with 3M ESPE Dental, Henry Schein Cares, the American Dental Association (ADA) and the ADA Foundation to Give Kids a Smile and put good oral health on the fast track for young fans of NASCAR. Across the country, Biffle is helping deliver the message to children about healthy habits like brushing, flossing, visiting the dentist and making smart food choices.
"As a parent, I want to do everything I can to protect my daughter's health and teach her good lifelong habits," says Biffle. "When you consider how much dental health impacts children's ability to learn, self-confidence and overall quality of life, you want to do everything you can to help them be healthy. For children in need, it is even more of a challenge, so we're working with 3M ESPE Dental, the American Dental Association, the ADA Foundation and Henry Schein Cares to provide education, free screenings and treatments."
Biffle shared these recommendations from the ADA for your children:
* Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
* Floss once a day.
* Eat a balanced diet and avoid sugary snacks and drinks. Frequent access to sugary drinks, not the quantity, increases the likelihood of tooth decay by feeding bacteria that attacks tooth enamel.
* Visit the dentist regularly.
* Reward children each time they exhibit good dental health, perhaps with a sticker on a calendar.
* Make dental care non-negotiable. Children know they must be buckled in car seats. Dental health should be equally mandatory.
* Set a good example by following these recommendations. Research shows that children mimic parents who exhibit good dental health.
Biffle is supporting the yearlong celebration of the Give Kids A Smile program's 10th anniversary in 2012. Fans can follow the program on Facebook at <a href="http://www.facebook.com/GiveKidsASmile">www.facebook.com/GiveKidsASmile</a>. The yearlong education program includes a national public service announcement featuring Biffle and ongoing outreach to parents and children, community events and media. Give Kids A Smile is an ADA initiative where dentists and their dental teams provide free oral health care services to children from underserved communities across the country. Throughout the year, there will be more than 1,600 Give Kids A Smile events around the country providing dental services to more than 400,000 underserved children.