If you stick to the recommended twice a day brushing routine when it comes to your oral hygiene, then you brush your teeth 730 times every year. Chances are, most of those 730 toothbrushing efforts took place in your own home. But should kids be brushing their teeth in school? The New York City Board of Health thinks so.
An Epidemic of Decay
Tooth decay is far and away the most common health problem faced by children. More than one in three New York City third graders have untreated tooth decay, and for the first time in forty years, the number of preschoolers with cavities is increasing. And it’s no wonder, considering that 40% of children under 6 don’t brush their teeth twice a day.
This is alarming for a number of reasons. First, dental decay can be a permanent problem — enamel doesn’t grow back, so when children have to get cavities removed and filled, their teeth are impacted by that for the rest of their lives. Plus, if children fail to learn healthy oral hygiene routines early in life, they may face worse oral health consequences down the line. And of course, dental decay is painful to experience, and can even keep kids out of school.
Luckily, this problem is completely preventable. Efforts to better educate parents on how to model healthy tooth brushing habits to their kids are underway, but the New York City Board of Health has a bigger idea.
A Preschool Proposal
The Board of Health in New York City wants to combat the epidemic of dental decay in children with a hands-on approach in the city’s preschools. Instead of relying on parents to help children brush their teeth at home, the school would implement group tooth brushing activities every day, where children would be provided with their own child-sized, soft-bristled toothbrush and would be supervised as they brushed with fluoride toothpaste, and then cleaned and stored their toothbrushes afterward.
The Board of Health hopes that implementing processes like this in schools will particularly help low-income children who don’t have access to oral health tools and education at home. Parents could opt out of the program if they chose.
The proposal will be voted on in June. Meanwhile, the onus is still on parents to teach their children the habits they need to develop for a healthy smile.
Oral Health Care for Children
Whether they’re brushing their teeth at home or at school, it’s important that children develop good oral hygiene habits early. As soon as your child’s first tooth erupts, they should have their teeth gentle brushed with a child-safe toothpaste twice a day. And once there are two teeth beside each other, flossing should also be added to the routine. But you shouldn’t use a fluoride toothpaste until your child has enough control to avoid swallowing it. Too much fluoride can be bad for kids.