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Colorado nonprofits, lawmakers fight for local pediatric dental health

By: Hannah Blick, hannah.blick@gazette.com
April 12, 2016 Updated: April 12, 2016 at 12:35 pm
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Girl brushing her teeth

Pulse is a quarterly Gazette medical publication that highlights the survivors, volunteers and physicians who make our city a strong and healthy place to live.

Time to celebrate those tiny teeth! February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, and the Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation is leading the charge in care and education with a war-on-sugar themed campaign.

“We’re thrilled that this is the theme – it’s an issue we’ve been focusing on for two years at the Foundation,” said Wyatt Hornsby, Director of Public Will Building at the Foundation. “Sugar is the root cause of tooth decay in children, and fighting it comes down to health literacy.”

One of the biggest culprits in pediatric sugar wars is sweetened beverages, like juice and soda. “We tend to think of juice as healthy, because it’s made with fruits and veggies, but in reality, there’s quite a bit of concentrated sugars in juice,” Hornsby said. These sugars can sit on children’s teeth and contribute to decay. “We’ve done polling and know that a lot of kids drink juice, chocolate milk and soda throughout the day.” Hornsby advised limiting sugary drinks to meal times and serving water to children in between meals. “When we eat, our teeth are under attack. Between meals, our saliva helps reset our mouth to a healthy state. It takes 20 minutes for this process to kick in, but if you’re constantly drinking more sugar, it never lets your mouth reset.”

When it comes to pediatric dental health misconceptions, Hornsby said many are unaware of the significance of the health of baby teeth. “People seem to understand kids need baby teeth to chew and form words, but most don’t realize disease can spread to adult teeth,” he said. “When a child loses a baby tooth, it’s not a fresh start. If a baby tooth had untreated cavities, their adult teeth can suffer, too.”

The health of young teeth matters to Colorado lawmakers, too. As of February 1, the State Department of Human Services passed the Child Care Facility Licensing Rules, ruling all licensed child care centers in Colorado can no longer serve sugar-sweetened beverages to kids. “This includes juices with added sugar, soda, flavored milks,” said Jake Williams, executive director of Healthier Colorado. One-hundred-percent juice is limited to twice a week. “If a family wants to send their child with a sugary drink, it is certainly in their rights. Otherwise, children will have access to water, white milk and formula or breast milk, if needed.”

Healthier Colorado polled 5,000 state citizens in preparation for passing the new childcare facility regulations. “Over 80 percent of Coloradans recognized the health consequences of sugary drinks,” Willliams said. “We worked to make sure the voices of regular Coloradans were heard, and the results show that a majority of our state’s parents support this change.”

For more information on the new childcare facility legislation, visit coloradoofficeofearlychildhood.com. For more information on pediatric dental care, visit deltadentalcofoundation.org.

 

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