If you have young children in preschool or daycare in Massachusetts chances are you've heard about the new state-wide mandate to have those children brush their teeth while in care. How do you feel about this? I don’t hate it. I actually really like the idea. However, I realize not everyone agrees with me.
If you haven’t heard, the mandate, which took effect January 22, requires caregivers and teachers to “support good oral health by requiring that children brush their teeth when they are in care for more than four hours, or consume a meal during care” (source). In other words, the teacher or caregiver must assist the children in tooth brushing. One more thing for daycare providers and preschool teachers to add to their busy schedules but it sounds reasonable to me. Good habits start young.
From what I’ve read so far about this tooth brushing regulation it seems some parents aren’t very happy with the government, for lack of a better way to describe it, putting their hands in their kids’ mouths. To that I say, better someone help them brush now than someone filling a cavity or extracting a rotted tooth.
According to the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC): One in four Massachusetts kindergartners have dental decay; 50% of which goes untreated. Low income children affected almost twice as often as their more affluent peers. Early tooth loss is linked to failure to thrive, impaired speech development, poor concentration, and reduced self-esteem. (source)
I was surprised, but pleasantly so, when I first heard about the regulation in September from my daughter’s preschool teacher. I needed to buy a new toothbrush and tube of toothpaste to leave at the school for her but that seemed a small price to pay for good oral hygiene habits. And I should note, my daughter’s teacher made a point to mention to all the parents that each child had their own individual space to store their toothbrush and toothpaste, one that will be kept very clean. I understand that some parents are concerned about germs, I have no doubt our preschool is on top of keeping things clean and as germ-free as possible.
Parents can opt out of this program if they choose. If you have young children in daycare or preschool, what are your thoughts on this new regulation?
(February is Dental Health Month. What a great coincidence! Check out the Massachusetts Dental Society's website for ideas on how to get your kids excited about keeping their pearly whites shiny and clean.)