Getting the Word Out
Because studies show that dental disease causes students to miss more than 250,000 school hours each year, Children’s Hospital of Richmond is going one step further, taking dental health messages into the community through a partnership with the Virginia Department of Health – Dental Division.
The program reached 1,186 first graders in some Richmond and all Hopewell, Petersburg and Prince George area schools in the 2007-2008 school year and expects to reach 2,000 children in the 2008-2009 school year by expanding to Charles City, Dinwiddie and New Kent schools. The 60-minute interactive program is based on the health portion of the first grade Standard of Learning test and teaches students about dental health, the functions of teeth, nutrition and proper brushing habits.
Although Robert, a third grader, did not participate in the program, he said, “If I want my teeth to be good, I have to have healthy food.”
With Robert’s permanent teeth now filling the gap left by the teeth he lost almost seven years ago, he will continue to make the twice-yearly trips to Richmond and Dr. Bortell. Although he was almost two years old before his first dental visit, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends children see a dentist by the time their first tooth erupts or no later than age one then every six months after that. For a young child, treatment can involve a dental exam, toothbrush cleaning and fluoride treatment. As the child gets older, exams can also include x-rays and more extensive cleanings.
Dr. Bortell advises parents to start caring for their child’s teeth before the first one erupts. She suggests wiping a baby’s gums with a cloth after feedings, avoiding putting a child to bed with a bottle or sippy cup, and making and keeping all regular dental appointments.
“I look forward to many years of treating children,” said Dr. Bortell.
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