A new Massachusetts law will require daycare providers to brush the teeth of every child who eats in their care or stays with them for at least four hours.
We can see the line of squirming, screaming children now.
The plan has at its root (no pun intended) some good intentions. The 2000 Surgeon General’s report on Oral Health in the U.S. found thousands of Massachusetts’ kids suffered from tooth decay.
By the numbers, nearly half of all third graders in the Commonwealth had a history of dental decay. One quarter of these kids were at school with untreated tooth decay and severe infections that required immediate care and nearly twenty-five percent of communities in Massachusetts do not have a practicing dentist. And it isn’t just about the teeth – tooth decay has been linked to a variety of other health problems.
With a captive audience in daycares, and daycares already under the state’s purview for regulation, it seems like a perfect solution to a pervasive problem.
But it doesn’t mean we can’t feel a bit sorry for those daycare providers, dealing with the seventeen flavors of toothpaste requested by picky kids, the screaming fits from the kids going through that “you have to hold me down to brush my teeth” phase and the really fun kids – the ones who still throw up when they brush their teeth.
The other issue: the mandate that kids brush their teeth after daycare meals is a tad excessive. The ADA recommends brushing your teeth twice a day – for most kids that’s first thing in the morning and right before bed.
The law will catch kids falling through the cracks, which is the important issue. But is pushing kids to go beyond the ADA recommendations overkill?
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