Remarks as prepared; not a transcript.

Vice Admiral Richard H. Carmona, M.D., M.P.H, FACS
United States Surgeon General
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

National Children's Dental Health Month Kick-Off with Colgate Dedication of New Mobile Dental Van

Tuesday, February 1, 2005
Gibbs Elementary School
Washington, D.C.

Photo: Surgeon General Richard Carmona talks with children at Gibbs Elementary school in Washington, D.C.

"The Surgeon General's Call to Action on Oral Health" Comes to Life for Kids"

It's great to be here at Gibbs Elementary School with all of you.

My name is Dr. Richard Carmona, and I'm the United States Surgeon General. That means that I'm the doctor to the American people. My job is to help all the kids here and all across America to be healthy and safe.

That's a big job, and I am lucky to have a lot of help - from parents, teachers and principals, dentists, and companies like Colgate that care about kids.

Because you know what? To be healthy, you have to have a healthy mouth.

It takes all your teeth working together with your tongue and your gums so that you can eat, talk, and breath. And just like your whole mouth has to be healthy for you to be healthy, it takes everyone working together to make sure that kids have healthy, bright smiles. I think that you all are really smart kids, and that you can help me with something.

The Year of the Healthy Child

I need your help because I'm working on a very important project called "The Year of the Healthy Child."

It is happening here in D.C. and all across the world. We are starting with pregnancy care, and going up through adolescence.

As a child grows, so do the child's health needs, so we are addressing - among other things - breastfeeding, on-time immunizations, childhood obesity, injury prevention, drug and alcohol use prevention, safe teen driving, and OF COURSE, oral health.

But I can't do it alone. I need your help.

Junior Surgeons General Game and Oath

So that I can decide if you're all ready to help me with this very important job, I need to ask you some questions.

I'm going to go through a list of "Health DOs" and "Health DON'Ts."

Here's how this works: if I say something you should do to stay healthy, I want you to yell out as loud as you can "DO!"And I want you to say "DON'T" really loudly if I say something you shouldn't do. Okay - Are you ready now to yell out "DO" or "DON'T"???

The first one is easy: Play in the street. DON'T

Eat fruits. DO

Try a cigarette. DON'T

Run and play. DO

Wear sunscreen. DO

Eat dessert after every meal, including breakfast. DON'T

Brush your teeth and gums every day. DO

Wear your helmet on a bike, scooter, or skateboard. DO

Buckle up in the car even if your mom is taking you right down the street. DO

If something is bothering you - making you sad or mad - talk to your mom or dad or a teacher about it. DO

Look both ways if you're crossing the street. DO

And now, I know that you know some of the important things you need to do to stay healthy and safe.

Will you help me take the message to other kids?

Because you passed my "Health DOs and DON'Ts" test, I would like to make you "Junior Surgeons General" and give you the Junior Surgeons General Oath.

Everyone please raise your right hand and repeat after me.

"I, (now say your name), pledge to help the United States Surgeon General by

  • Eating healthy food,
  • Exercising,
  • Brushing and flossing every day,


  • I pledge not to smoke.
  • I also pledge to tell my friends and family about the "DOs" and "DON'Ts" of staying healthy.

Congratulations! You are all now Junior Surgeons General.

You are now part of my team!

Thank you for helping me spread the word to all your friends and your brothers, and sisters, and everyone you know.

Oral Health

Here's something you might not know: Tooth decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease.

Over half of children age 5 to 9 in America have at least one cavity. When I was a kid, my family couldn't afford to take us to the dentist, so I had a lot of cavities. Today, even though I'm all grown up, I have more dental problems than a lot of people because I didn't get good preventive care when I was growing up.

So I know first-hand how difficult it is to be a child whose mouth hurts. I know that kids can't learn in school if they are in pain. They may have trouble eating or speaking.

What do we do about this?

Well, my office is working with all the oral health professionals and with companies like Colgate to make sure that everyone has a fair shot a healthy mouth and a healthy body.

Surgeon General's Call to Action on Oral Health

I recently issued the Surgeon General's Call to Action on Oral Health.

The goals of the Call to Action are:

  • To promote oral health;
  • To improve quality of life;
  • To eliminate oral health disparities.

There are simple steps that anyone can take can improve their oral health:

  • Proper brushing and flossing every day
  • Use of fluoride rinse or toothpaste
  • Regular visits to the dentist
  • Healthy eating
  • Limiting use of alcohol
  • Avoiding tobacco

Tobacco use can cause oral cancer. Smoking is responsible for half the cases of periodontal disease in the United States.

Excess sugar causes tooth decay. So that means cut down on sugars and brush after you eat sweets. And good nutrition is very important. We all need to get plenty of calcium to keep our teeth healthy.

Also, fluoride in water protects us from tooth decay. People living in communities with fluoridated water have fewer cavities. That is why Washington, D.C. has fluoride in the water.

We also need to keep ourselves and our teeth safe from crashes and injuries. We need to wear our seatbelts in cars, wear our helmets while bicycling and skateboarding, and use mouth guards when we play sports.


Thank you all for being here this morning.

Today must be a day of change. Today must be a day when we help more kids in Washington, D.C. and throughout the nation get on the road to better oral health.

Working together, we can make that happen! Thank you.


Last revised: January 8, 2007