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Dental health instructor shares the importance of proper hygiene with kindergarten students

September 27, 2001|By KELLY GRANT, Staff Writer

Bearing an oversize toothbrush and a message of good dental hygiene, Jim Taylor, a registered nurse and El Centro Elementary School District dental health educator, was spreading the word at Sunflower Elementary School's kindergarten classrooms Wednesday.

Though dental education programs like this have been in place at schools across the state and country for years, this is just the second year the district has implemented the California Childhood Dental Disease Prevention Program, Taylor said.

New this year is a component that provides free sealants to cavity-free teeth in the mouths of participating special education kids throughout the district and second- and fifth-graders at McKinley and Lincoln elementary schools.

Participating students in the district in kindergarten through sixth grades this year also receive toothbrushes, toothpaste daily fluoride tabs and lots of dental health education. In multiple visits to classrooms, Taylor explains to kids why it's important to take care of their teeth and the best methods of doing so.


While the kindergartners Taylor spoke to Wednesday still have their baby teeth, it's important to teach good habits while kids are still young. What's more, if dangerous organisms are present on baby teeth, they'll still be in the mouth when adult teeth start to come in, damaging them, too, Taylor said.

Also, the district hopes to reach children of low-income households who, in many cases, don't receive recommended dental care.

"Historically, in low-income families, oral hygiene is not a priority," Taylor said.

Low-income families often don't go to the dentist until something hurts, he explained.

The El Centro Elementary School District aims to break that cycle and teach kids preventive measures to avoid permanent damage, Taylor said.

Dental hygiene is not just about pearly white smiles, Taylor explained. Cavity-causing bacteria can cause a host of other health problems later in life including strokes and pregnancy complications.

Taylor and the district hope students retain the information and put it to use.

While holding an oversize plastic tooth turned black by a cavity, Taylor tries to get his message across to the wide-eyed kids before him.

"There's no reason this should happen," he said.

Staff Writer Kelly Grant can be reached at 337-3441.

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