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Lesson in teeth-cleaning from the top

Lesson in teeth-cleaning from the top

Demonstrating their teeth-cleaning expertise to Health Minister, Annette King, for whom dental nursing was a former career, is a group of Wellington Plunket pre-schoolers, from left: Arielle Stretch-Swan, four years; William Hobbs, 16 months; Jacob Aukusitino, four years; and Olivia Chin,15 months.

According to Annette King the children passed inspection and are great advocates for dental health, the focus of the annual well child health week, which this year takes place from 5 to 11 May.

Usually the first oral health check babies receive is from their Plunket Nurse or well child health provider. Plunket recommends baby teeth should be cleaned with a soft cloth and a small smear of fluoride or junior toothpaste.

When it comes time for toddlers to blow out their first birthday candle, they are ready to experience tooth-brushes and toothpaste. Soft bristle or junior toothbrushes are available from supermarkets and pharmacies and a small smear toothpaste is best as most toddlers initially swallow toothpaste.

And like most skills, toddlers learn the life-long twice-daily habit of teeth-cleaning by copying others in the family.

At two and a half years of age, and usually with 20 teeth, they are ready to make their first trip to the local dental clinic where they are enrolled in the free-service.

According to a study published last year in the New Zealand Dental Journal1 the most common oral health questions asked of Plunket nurses relate to tooth cleaning (53 percent), managing teething (48 percent), advice about accidents or abnormal teeth (25 percent), using fluoride (21 percent), and when to enrol in the School Dental Service (18 percent).

The study evaluated the impact of the Plunket oral-health module five years after its introduction. It found that the oral health advice Plunket Nurses provide to parents and babies should be complimented and supported. It also stated that the Plunket Nurses' role in oral health care for young children should be widely recognised and encouraged by dental therapists and dentists in our New Zealand communities.

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