Healthy teeth in a healthy body
Tuesday, July 31, 2018
by Sharon Luttmer, Summer Volunteer
For many students at Kopila Valley, brushing their teeth was not a daily habit before they were admitted to school. A large number of children show up to class with severe dental problems, including pain because of cavities, inflamed gums, or missing teeth, which unfortunately also affects their general health. Many of the students' guardians often can't afford toothbrushes and toothpaste for the whole family.
Fortunately, dental hygiene is one of our favorite subjects at Kopila! We talk about oral hygiene in class, and everyone gets their own toothbrush and toothpaste. For the youngest children, time has even been scheduled to brush their teeth together in the morning. This all fits in with our general emphasis on the importance of personal hygiene to prevent the spread of parasites, viruses, and bacteria. We talk a lot about washing hands before eating, after going to the bathroom, or after playing outside -- in fact, it's a group activity that all the younger kids do at the sink together!
As a dentistry student, it was my task to provide students with extra knowledge about oral health this summer. With the help of their teachers and a dual-language picture book, I told them a story about how dental problems arise and how to prevent these problems. We told them about the importance of healthy food, the danger of sugary products, and the importance of regular tooth brushing. We also showed them what happens when you do not brush your teeth. The children were all ears, and dozens of hands shot into the air when we asked them a question!
After talking extensively about oral hygiene, it was time to practice brushing. Since children learn best through regular practice, it is very important to teach them the right brushing technique as early as possible, even though their motor skills are often insufficient to achieve optimal results. On a large tooth model with a mega-toothbrush, the kids were allowed to practice one by one. The children who came up were enthusiastically encouraged by their classmates: ''Inside, outside, chewing surface!'' echoed through the classroom. The giant teeth made a big impression on the children. Everyone wanted to try it!
Now it was time to brush their own teeth! After instructions and a "dry" practice in the classroom, we made our way to the sinks where the children brush their teeth every morning on school days. Everyone got some toothpaste on their brush and with a lot of enthusiasm, they started brushing. There were a few corrections here and there, but after more than two minutes of cleaning, the children were proud to show me their shiny, clean, plaque-free teeth!
For the next few days, I had children rushing up to me throughout the day shouting: ''Look how clean my teeth are!'' with a radiant smile from ear to ear. I hope they will hold on to this enthusiasm for a long time, so we can prevent major dental and health problems in the future. I'm hoping that Kopila Valley can continue to provide toothbrushes, toothpaste, and dental care for all students. Good oral hygiene benefits general health, and children with healthy teeth feel better, are more confident, and smile more. A healthy body starts with a healthy mouth!
Our monthly Roots donors make it possible for us to buy ongoing supplies like toothpaste and toothbrushes. Will you become a member today?