Do you know what one of the most common chronic childhood diseases is? It’s not asthma; it’s actually five times more common than asthma. It’s not hay fever; it’s seven times more common than that. It’s tooth decay. Not a big deal? Think again.
For the first time in 40 years tooth decay is on the rise. One in four preschoolers and more than half of kindergarteners have tooth decay. This is causing an increase of young children having to undergo surgery under anesthesia to repair the damage and costing parents thousands of dollars. When parents can’t afford treatment, oftentimes the child is brought to an emergency room and is given pain killers. ERs only treat the symptoms because they do not have the facilities or staff to treat the problem and the tenfold cost is covered by the taxpayers.
Oral health is integral to overall health. Studies are finding poor oral health linked to heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. In pregnant women it can lead to premature birth and low birth weight. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you consider that our bodies are our ‘houses’ and our mouths are the ‘doors’, the connection between oral health and overall health makes complete sense.
Untreated tooth decay can lead to lifelong issues: a higher risk of tooth decay in permanent teeth, malnourishment, speech impediments, decreased ability to learn, absence from school (over 51 million school hours are lost each year) and even death. Just ask Alyce, mother of 12 year old Deamonte Driver who died from a brain infection as a result of a dental problem that didn’t get fixed.
It doesn’t only affect minority children. Sonja Lauren was 13 years old when she got dentures. Years of abuse and neglect resulted in what a dentist wrote on her chart: “situation hopeless”. The Covered Smile is her story from abuse and neglect to recovery, forgiveness and, finally, triumph. Today Sonja is a public speaker and an advocate for the dental profession as well as those who are in need of impactful oral health education. Her book and her lectures have inspired students to overcome hardships and professionals to be “more compassionate dental providers”.
In addition to economic issues, the rising tide of tooth decay can also be the result of lazy parenting.
· Putting babies to bed with bottles containing sugary liquids such as juice or milk
· Allowing toddlers to have sippy cups with juice all day long
· Sodas instead of water
· Candy or other sweets as bribes
Constantly exposing young teeth to sugar has contributed to the problem, along with inadequate dental hygiene. It’s shocking to learn that many parents don’t know that they should clean a baby’s mouth after every meal, even before they have teeth. Not only does this remove cavity causing bacteria, it also helps acclimate a baby to having his or her mouth cleaned and makes tooth brushing a lot easier when their teeth start to come in. Toddlers who aren’t used to any dental hygiene activities will cry and fuss but these days many parents will give them a pass, hoping they’ll be more cooperative when they’re older. By then it’s too late.
In a historic response, the American Dental Association along with 35 other dental groups formed the Partnership for Healthy Mouths, Healthy Lives and partnered with the Ad Council to launch “Kids’ Healthy Mouths”, a campaign designed to teach parents, caregivers and children about the importance of oral health. A survey by the Ad Council found that less than 50% of parents reported that their children brushed twice a day. The campaign’s informational messages focus on the importance of brushing your teeth for two minutes, twice a day.
That leads to the question of how. How can parents time two minutes of tooth brushing? How can they get their children to brush that long? Those how questions were the ones Antoinette de Janasz asked herself after her kids got a bad dental checkup because they were not brushing long enough. On the drive home from the dentist’s office she came up with the answer… the Twooth® Timer! The Twooth® Timer was, and still is, unlike anything else on the market. Based on a kitchen timer, it’s a two minute tooth-shaped mechanical bell timer. And like a kitchen timer, it needs no batteries and is easy to use for toddlers on up. Winner of several awards, the Twooth® Timer is recommended by dentists & hygienists to improve dental hygiene and lower dental bills. Best of all, kids love it and actually look forward to brushing! Now parents can get their kids to “brush for two minutes without ‘pulling teeth’”! Building upon the idea of making brushing fun, Antoinette has just launched the Twooth® Time Brushin’, Flossin’ Fun Kit and created dental characters, Twoothy T™ and Twooth® Fairy, from which the Twooth® Pocket Pal and temporary tattoos have been developed. After all, dental hygiene is an important life skill for children and it’s much easier to learn when it’s fun!