By Taran Schneider
Director of Healthy Child Care Colorado
Habits that children develop in the early stages of life are incredibly important. Did you know 90 percent of brain development occurs before the first day of kindergarten? Wow! And did you know tooth decay is the number one chronic disease in childhood, and that it’s preventable in nearly every case? It’s imperative that children learn to take care of their bodies when they are young so they can develop healthy habits. This means that early childhood professionals and families have key roles to play in helping children develop healthy routines.
The Healthy Child Care Colorado initiative works to promote linkages between the medical community and early childhood professionals. We support the health, safety, and wellness of children in early childhood settings by focusing on oral health.
We decided to prioritize oral health as a focus area because of the profound effects oral health can have on a child’s development and lifelong health. Poor oral health impacts more than just those pretty smiles. Kids with serious oral health problems may be in pain, and that pain can make it hard for them to concentrate, interact with one another, and learn. Young children may not be able to describe the pain or may not even realize they are in pain because they have learned to live with it, they may act out or seem uncooperative. So, it is very important that the adults in their lives do what they can to support their oral health.
This is why Healthy Child Care Colorado launched the Cavity Free Kids training for early childhood programs across Colorado. Cavity Free Kids focuses on five main topics:
• Baby Teeth are Important!
• Water for Thirst
• Tooth Healthy Foods
• Brush, Floss, Swish
• Going to the Dentist
The training highlights how educators can embed these topics into their lesson plans and daily schedules. There are also family engagement tools that can help establish an oral health connection between home and child care. The training is packed with ideas such as songs and learning center activities so that the learning is fun for young children.
Cavity Free Kids inspired people like Precious, owner of Sunshine Kids Academy. The training prompted her to ask questions and make tooth brushing part of the daily routine at her child care program. Precious collaborated with families to gather supplies and implement tooth brushing. She also makes efforts to serve tooth healthy foods and water or white milk instead of sugary drinks, which can decay kids’ teeth.
We are helping other child care programs implement tooth brushing through a pilot program funded by the Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation. Did you know that tooth brushing can be done in child care without using the bathroom, or even a sink? You can do it when children are sitting at tables after they have eaten, or with children sitting in circle.
If you would like to learn more about how we are supporting oral health in child care, please visit our website or contact Taran Schneider, Director of Healthy Child Care Colorado, at firstname.lastname@example.org.