February was Children’s Dental Health Month. While it’s easy to think such an inauspicious occasion would go by unnoticed, the biologists and trainers at the New England Aquarium in Boston are proving that simply isn’t the case. Last week, trainer’s at Boston’s popular aquarium partnered with a group of harbor seals to show children how they brush their teeth regularly.
While the Children’s Dental Health Month activities are relatively new, trainers have been working with the seals since the 90’s, training them to have their teeth brushed in hopes of reducing incidence of common mammalian dental issues resulting from plaque build-up. By showing Bostonian children how their favorite seals keep their pearly whites so vibrant, trainers at the aquarium are hoping to inspire children to do the same.
“It is essential for children early on to see their dentist and be comfortable so that they maintain a healthy smile for the long term,” explains Dr. Ron Receveur, DDS at New Albany Implants.
Sugar Consumption is Ruining Children’s Teeth
There’s been a renewed push for education on children’s health, especially as the consumption of sugar continues to climb across the world. 200 hundred years ago, Americans only consumed about 45 grams of sugar per year. That’s about the same amount as you’d get by consuming two cans of Coca Cola annually. The problem? Our sugar consumption has grown geometrically with our economic success. The average American now consumes 130 pounds of refined sugar every year. Since sugar is the food source for plaque, a bacteria that produces an enamel eating acid, increased sugar consumption leads directly to oral healthcare problems.
Poor Dental Health Impacts Physical, Social Health
Many of the negative effects of poor dental hygiene are plain as day; yellow stains, cavities, and bad breath are all telltale signs of a lack of brushing. That being said, most parents aren’t aware of the serious complications that can come with too much sugar and not enough brushing. Jaw pain, fragile teeth, unnatural tooth loss, and serious infections all result from not paying attention to dental care.
Issues associated with poor dental hygiene don’t stop with physical health problems either. Letting teeth rot leads to significant social problems when your kids grow into adults. 96% of adults believe a healthy, vibrant smile makes people more attractive to others. Not only do lax dental practices lead to immediate physical issues, they can impact whether or not children have a happy social life later on.
It’s easy to say that all of this is just another case of the media sensationalizing an issue, but look at the statistics: one-in-four American children between the ages of two and five are affected by tooth decay. Half of Americans from 12 to 15 deal with tooth decay. This is a major issue.
So, if the way to better health habits is to get some of our aquatic cousins to teach our kids about the importance of dental health care, then why not go for it? Promoting Children’s Dental Health Month and all it represents now, whomever is doing the teaching, could mean happier, healthier young adults in the future.