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Dental Care for Kids: The Importance of Brushing Teeth at Child Care Centers

Rachael Moshman

Good dental care for kids goes beyond the home. Young children often eat two of their three meals each day (in addition to snacks) in a preschool or childcare setting. This leaves a lot of time for bacteria to build between morning and evening brushings at home.

Recommendations for Preschool Dental Care

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) is the gold standard when it comes to recommending developmentally appropriate practices for programs serving young children. Their NAEYC accreditation criteria require the following: "At least once daily in a program where children older than one year receive two or more meals, teaching staff provide an opportunity for tooth brushing and gum cleaning to remove food and plaque. (The use of toothpaste is not required.)." In fact, NAEYC is so committed to this practice that they have a step by step poster available to hang near the sink to walk children through the proper steps of brushing their teeth. It features photos to make it easy for children to mimic the steps. The Head Start program requires teachers to schedule time for dental care for all children over age one each day.

Resistance to Brushing at Childcare Centers

Childcare facilities may be opposed to adopting dental care for kids programs for several reasons. Most preschool classrooms have two teachers and up to twenty or more children — that's a lot of teeth to brush. Brushing is a messy and time consuming undertaking, especially until children get used to doing it. Other factors that facilities consider include the cost of brushes and toothpaste, keeping each brush separate for sanitary reasons and, as a result, storage.

Implementing Brushing in Preschools

The preschool director might be more willing to tackle kid's dental care if presented with some suggestions for making it happen. One Florida preschool has the kids brush their teeth when they are finished with lunch. Teachers brush the teeth of toddlers whereas children ages three and up are supervised while they do it themselves. Cases are available with individual slots for each child's toothbrush that mount on the wall near the sink. Many programs ask parents to bring in their own toothbrushes and toothpaste, minimizing the cost to the school.

Tooth brushing at a childcare center is not a replacement for proper dental care at home, but it does give an advantage in the fight against plaque. It also helps to reinforce good dental practices from an early age.

Learn more about dental care for kids in the Colgate Oral Care resources.

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