Why should flossing and brushing teeth at school be a requirement at every level of primary school education?
After all this has nothing to do with education, right? Oral health belongs in the dental office and in the home. It is a parent’s responsibility to see to it that her child brushes her teeth. The child knows how to brush because he has been taught in the dental office. For many of us, this system works… to a certain degree. But this very system fails millions of Americans: the ones who don’t go to the dentists, not because they don’t care but because they can’t afford care. These people are the immigrants who come from cultures that expect tooth loss with every pregnancy. Cultures who believe that care for baby teeth is unnecessary since they all fall out. Who else but the schools can change the cycle of hurtful neglect unintentionally accompanying these families?
Flossing and brushing teeth after meals are habits essential to good oral health.
Current recommendations for brushing are twice per day for 2 minutes and for flossing once per day at bedtime preferably. Along with these current recommendations we also happen to find caries (tooth decay) in more than 60% of our teen aged kids. Their adult teeth permanently scarred and filled with materials that will need to be replaced at a high cost multiple times in their lifetime. This is the good part of the story. Of the people who can’t afford care, like Deamonte Driver or John Schneider, many will die as a result of an infected tooth.
Pointing a finger at who should be responsible for oral health is not helping. Neither is assuming that kids getting instructions on how to floss and brush twice per year at the dentist are getting what they need to achieve optimal oral health because they are not. How else would you explain the statistics of the above paragraph?
Flossing and brushing teeth at school will increase awareness of the mouth, what we put in it and the importance of keeping it clean.
Flossing and brushing after lunch at school will shine a bright spotlight on teeth, their strength and their weakness. Although teeth are made of the hardest tissue in the whole body, enamel, they also have the least ability to heal, hence the importance of appropriate, attentive care. But more importantly, flossing and brushing teeth at school will contribute in changing cultural beliefs about baby teeth and with that the statistics we are plagued with. An important change because when baby teeth are allowed to decay in the mouth, the adult teeth come in an unfavorable environment filled with thriving harmful bacteria.
Healthy habits take time and consistency to develop.
Congruence comes to mind here. Although the current recommendations are to brush twice per day for 2 minutes, many dentists, like me, are recommending brushing after each meal. This is currently impossible for children eating lunch at school. There is more to this. Supervised flossing and brushing after lunch at school will insure that the brushing is performed correctly and for the prescribed amount of time. You would be surprised at the number of people, young and old, who overestimate their brushing time. What they feel is 2 minutes is in reality a mere 20 seconds. Children who learn to floss and brush in school and do it consistently every school day will be less likely to overestimate their brushing time at home and they will be more likely to grow into adults who supervise and help their own children with brush and floss at home. Flossing and brushing after lunch at school will produce a new generation of children who understand the value of good oral hygiene and will not be shy about taking care of their oral hygiene needs after meals when they are on the road.