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Mandatory Day Care Brushing

New law making brushing teeth mandatory for day care centers

Dear Doctor,
Is it true that Massachusetts has created a new law making brushing teeth mandatory for day care centers?

Day care brushing law

Dear Sarah,
A new law has been mandated in Massachusetts requiring day care providers to assist children with brushing their teeth after a meal. The Department of Early Education and Care has stated that beginning in January, 2010, any child in day care who eats a meal or who is in care for more than 4 hours will be required to brush their teeth. This is in response to the alarming number of preschool children who are affected by dental decay. Tooth decay affects children in the United States more than any other chronic infectious disease. One in every four children ages 2-5 have tooth decay and only 50% of those are treated. If left untreated, tooth decay can cause pain, infections and other health related issues increasing the number of school hours that children miss each year. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a staggering 51 million school hours are lost each year because of dental-related issues. Parents who do not want their children to participate can opt out by filing a written response. The mandate is especially important for children who may fall between the cracks and might not otherwise get the necessary daily attention to their oral health.

The reality for a child with untreated oral disease is pain, the inability to chew well and eat comfortably, embarrassment from discolored or broken teeth, as well as distraction from learning and playing. In addition to the pain, early tooth loss caused by dental caries or tooth decay can result in poor speech development, poor development of social skills, and reduced self-esteem that can negatively affect success in later life. Healthy “baby” or primary teeth lay the foundation for the permanent teeth. Caring for primary teeth and teaching children the importance of caring for their teeth will promote good oral health and increase the chances of a child maintaining healthy permanent teeth for a lifetime.