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Tutu’s Corner

Dental health for children

Column by Tutu and me Traveling Preschool

Hawaii has the unfortunate distinction of having the worst dental health in the country. For the entire U.S., the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that greater attention be paid to the oral health needs of toddlers and preschoolers because the presence of cavities remains high in young children (28 percent) and is trending upward. Cavities or caries as a young child are often in the front baby teeth called baby bottle tooth decay. Although these teeth are replaced, their absence contributes to problems in language development, eating and sometimes the spacing of permanent teeth. Fluoride is built into the enamel to strengthen the tooth against decay.

Try this at home:
• Start early taking your child to the dentist at age 15 – 18 months. Most dental insurance covers a preventative visit at age 1. Start cleaning, brushing and flossing as soon as there are two teeth and get your child used to you doing things to their mouth.
• Make tooth brushing a fun activity, something the child will miss out on. Your enthusiasm is contagious! Laugh and make a lot of noise. Have the whole family and older siblings brush together.
• Allow your child to brush your teeth or a doll’s teeth, and then you brush their teeth. By age 4 or 5 children are usually ready to brush their teeth on their own twice a day, with supervision until age 7 when their manual dexterity is fully developed.
• Buy appealing child-sized toothbrushes with soft rounded or polished bristles and replace them when worn.
• Test different flavors of toothpaste, using only a pea-sized amount on the child’s brush. Avoid paste with pyrophosphates (they burn). Emphasize spitting out the toothpaste.
• Try dental floss products made especially for children to capture their interest in flossing.

Remember: The reward for maintaining dental health in childhood is priceless – your child’s beautiful smile – which will contribute to self-confidence and better health into adulthood.

Contributions from Tutu and Me Traveling Preschool, a program of Partners in Development Foundation.  Tutu and Me is funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

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