“Chinatown and Asian Kids Have Bad Teeth”

by Rev. Norman Fong

June 24, 2019

norman fong

I recently interviewed Kent Woo, the Executive Director of the NICOS Chinese Health Coalition and he told me about one of the health problems the coalition has been working on through it’s Health Fairs. A lot of people don’t know that Chinatown and Asian American kids have a lot of problems with Bad Teeth. I told him that I’d write about it in my next column in Sing Tao. Kent Woo shared with me the information below.

nicos bad teeth oral health chinatown asian kids

oral health asian kids nicos

San Francisco Unified School District data has consistently shown that Asian American children have the highest rate of dental caries (cavities) and Chinatown children have the highest rate of untreated dental cavities entering kindergarten. Because of this, NICOS Chinese Health Coalition formed the Chinatown Task Force on Children’s Oral Health (CTFCOH) in 2015; convened a health fair with the theme “Health Starts from the Mouth” in 2018; and will be launching an educational campaign with the same theme this year.

Many people do not realize that oral health is an essential part of overall health. In fact, in adults, studies show a link between poor oral health and heart disease, respiratory diseases, and even birth complications. In children, in addition to health impacts, studies show a link between poor oral health and poor school performance. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “untreated cavities can cause pain and infections that may lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing, and learning,” and “children who have poor oral health often miss more school and receive lower grades than children who don’t.”

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teaching oral health care chinatown asian kids children nicos

According to dentists and the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH), there are five key strategies to preventing childhood cavities. NICOS Chinese Health Coalition will emphasize these points in their “Health Starts from the Mouth” educational campaign. In addition to helping youngsters brush and floss daily, parents, grandparents and caretakers should:

1. Reduce children’s consumption of foods and beverages containing sugar and white flour. Bacteria feed on sugar and white flour and produce acid, which causes tooth decay.
2. Encourage children to drink tap water. Tap water contains fluoride which strengthens teeth.
3. Schedule children’s first visit to a dentist for routine check-ups beginning by age one or when their first tooth emerges. Early oral health is important to lifelong oral health.
4. Ask your children’s dentist and/or health care provider for fluoride varnish and sealants. Fluoride varnishes strengthen teeth; sealants shield teeth from harmful bacteria.
5. Never allow infants or toddlers to drink from a bottle with milk, juice or formula for long periods of time. These drinks contain sugars that lead to harm to teeth and gums.

Engaging in these practices may or may not help your child get an “A” at school, but it will certainly get you an “A” as a parent or grandparent!

brushing teeth teaching oral health care chinatown asian kids children nicos

Originally published in Sing Tao Daily on June 23, 2019

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