Brushing Up on Oral Health in Kentucky
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Teams of early childhood professionals from across the state are in Louisville today learning how to help parents improve their children’s' oral health.
The so-called Train-the-Trainer approach is one of the many ways the Kentucky Oral Health Coalition is trying to reduce tooth decay among young children.
Dr. Laura Hancock Jones, a dentist with University of Kentucky Dental Outreach, says children’s habits – both what they drink and if they brush – have been set by the time they turn two.
"So, it's really those early interventions, those early moments for those children, that we really need to foster the oral health knowledge of those parents and not really delay that until they are into preschool or elementary population," Hancock Jones says.
According to a report from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, cavities are the most prevalent chronic disease among U.S. children, with more than 40 percent of children experiencing tooth decay by the time they reach kindergarten.
Molly Oliver, who runs a day care center for the Trigg County school system, is among those being trained on ways to engage parents.
"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 explains.
Hancock Jones says marketing by food and beverage companies makes it more difficult for parents to avoid products that are bad for their children.
She says encouraging parents to own the oral health of their children is vital to reducing tooth decay.
She says parents need to be involved in making sure brushing is part of their child's routine, 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 points out. “You know, it's not enough for a parent to say, 'Hey go brush your teeth,’ when you're dealing with a three-year-old. They still need to be in there doing the work themselves."
The trainers will focus on surrounding children in their communities with adults – both parents and child care professionals – to promote good oral health and how to stay healthy.
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 to train early childhood professionals in 10 communities.