There is nothing better than seeing a big smile on the faces of the children in your program! As an early childhood educator, you have the unique opportunity to help keep those smiles big and healthy by promoting good oral health practices with the children and families you serve.
Baby Teeth Matter
Baby teeth help children chew and eat, speak clearly and smile with confidence. They also hold space for their permanent teeth. When a baby tooth is lost too early — most often due to tooth decay — permanent teeth can come in crooked, crowded or not at all. And tooth decay — also known as cavities — can be painful, making it hard to speak, eat and learn. The good news is that tooth decay is preventable.
Information for Families
You are a trusted source of information and support for the families you serve, so look for ways to share tips and information about how they can care for their children’s teeth.
First Things First, the Arizona Department of Health Services and other partners have developed messaging, videos, articles and infographics that you can share with families to help them prevent tooth decay and keep their children healthy and smiling.
Visit FirstThingsFirst.org/healthy-teeth for all of this helpful content.
Below are a few key tips to share. These could be posted for families to view or sent home in a newsletter.
- Keeping your young children’s baby teeth strong and healthy is important for their overall health and development.
- You can help prevent tooth decay by not sharing germs, limiting sugar, taking care of their teeth at home and taking your child to their regular dental check-ups.
- Take your child for their first visit to the dentist when you see their first tooth or by their first birthday and every year after that.
- Dental check-ups are covered for children on AHCCCS or KidsCare.
Oral Health Practices in Your Program
A toothbrushing program in your early learning environment is a great way to help young children start to develop good habits and ensure they are keeping up with their toothbrushing. Each child will need their own age appropriate toothbrush labeled with their name, and providers should have fluoridated toothpaste and a sanitary place to dry and hold the toothbrushes. To learn more about setting up a toothbrushing program in your ECE environment, visit these resources:
Your child care health consultant (CCHC) is also a great resource for oral health and toothbrushing programs. To learn more and contact your local CCHC, click here.
Oral health programs supported by First Things First are available in some regions if Arizona. These locally-based programs can visit your center or home and provide oral health screenings and fluoride varnish application for the children in your care. They can also provide education for staff. To find out more about their services and to see if dental/oral health programs funded by First Things First are available in your region, click here.
At Quality First, we love to hear from you. How do you care for children’s oral health in your program? Share your new and innovative practices so others can be inspired. Send an email to QualityFirst@FirstThingsFirst.org.