Early-childhood specialists want to help parents teach kids good oral-health habits; 40 percent have cavities by kindergarten

A recent report by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry showed that cavities are the most chronic disease for young children in the U.S. More than 40 percent of children suffer from tooth decay before kindergarten, Greg Stotelmyer reports for Public News Service. Groups of early-childhood professionals gathered in Louisville Thursday to learn how to educate parents to help improve their children’s oral health.

Dr. Laura Hancock Jones, an outreach dentist with the University of Kentucky, emphasized the importance of teaching children how to brush their teeth and avoid too many sugary drinks before they turn 2. “We really need to foster the oral-health knowledge of those parents and not really delay that until [their children] are into preschool or elementary population,” she said.

Molly Oliver, who runs a day-care center for the Trigg County school system, is one of those learning how to teach parents how to foster good health habits in their children. “We want to help build a relationship with our parents to try to help the parents and the children have better oral health for their families,” she said.

Jones noted that food and beverage companies’ marketing is making it harder for parents to steer their children away from unhealthy products. Parents need to make sure their children are brushing their teeth both morning and night. “And, for parents to understand that until their child is in second grade, they don’t have the dexterity to get the job done themselves,” she said. “You know, it’s not enough for a parent to say, ‘Hey, go brush your teeth,’ when you’re dealing with a 3-year-old. They still need to be in there doing the work themselves.”

The Kentucky Oral Health Coalition is partnering with the UCLA Health Care Institute and the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood to offer $1,000 grants to train early childhood professionals in 10 communities, Stotelmyer reports. The trainers will strive to provide children with the support of adults—both parents and child care professionals—who can help them understand how to maintain good oral health. (Read more)

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