Dentist takes message to elementary students

March 6, 2009

By Jim Feehan

Geoffrey Strange, a dentist with Newcastle Dentistry, explains the importance of flossing with members of Cathy Dean’s first-grade class at Hazelwood Elementary School. By Emily Burnett 

 

Geoffrey Strange, a dentist with Newcastle Dentistry, explains the importance of flossing with members of Cathy Dean’s first-grade class at Hazelwood Elementary School. By Emily Burnett

It’s never too soon to stress the importance of preventative dentistry.

As part of National Children’s Dental Health Month in February, Geoffrey Strange, a dentist with Newcastle Dentistry, visited elementary schools in Newcastle and Newport Hills to raise awareness about the importance of oral health and to foster good oral hygiene habits from a young age.

While visiting Cathy Dean’s first-grade class at Hazelwood Elementary School, Strange engaged the students by asking, “Why is going to the dentist important?”

To illustrate, he had four students put on felt suits to resemble teeth and stand next to each other as a classmate practiced flossing between them with a rope.

Students peppered Strange with several questions, such as — How do bugs stick to dental floss instead of your teeth?

“Floss acts like a spider web for tooth bugs,” he explained. 

Early exposure to tooth-decay prevention measures are important, he said. 

That’s the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Dental Association, said Dr. Joel Berg, chair of the University of Washington Department of Pediatric Dentistry.

“The main message essentially is this is a preventable disease,” he said. “Left untreated, tooth decay can have a significant and dramatic effect on a child’s life.”

Nationwide, nearly 28 percent of children ages 2-5 had at least one cavity, according to a federal survey covering 1999-2004. That represents a 4 percent climb from the previous survey, 1988-1994, and the first significant statistical increase in 40 years. 

The federal government first assessed tooth decay in the 1960s. After massive efforts to put fluoride in tap water led to declining cavity rates in the 1970s, tooth decay among preschoolers leveled off in the 1980s — until now.

Poor diet, poor dental hygiene and lack of fluoridated water are among the reasons cited for the increase in preschool cavities, Berg said.

“Poor dental health is almost always preventable,” he said.

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