Good oral health is essential for kids and their overall health. For Latino kids though, it’s not always so simple.
Most kids have their first dental visit by age 7.
For Latinos, their first visit is closer to age 16!
While lack of dental insurance is most often the reason for such a late start, there is another culprit.
The average child in the United States now consumes over half of her body weight in sugar every year. Much of this sugar comes from sugary drinks.
Too Much Sugar is Bad!
Too much sugar can lead to serious health issues, like obesity, diabetes, and poor oral health. Some populations, such as Latinos experience much higher oral disease rates than the general population.
About half of all U.S. Latino children have experienced cavities and, in Washington State, the rampant decay rate (seven or more cavities) among Latino children is on the rise, according to the Washington Dental Service Foundation.
A big reason for rising cavities is sugary drinks. Companies often target Latinos with sugary drinks and sugar-laden snacks.
Too much sugar can seriously impact Latino child health, from oral health to increased risk for diabetes and obesity-related disease.
Latino kids ages 2-4 who didn’t consume sugary drinks were 31% less likely to be obese than those with a high intake of sugary drinks, according to a study.
“Lessening children’s consumption of sugar in these early years would help decrease their risk of developing unhealthy weight, diabetes, and heart disease,” said Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, director of Salud America! and the Institute for Health Promotion Research at UT Health San Antonio.
Share the Love, Share the Water
One of the easiest ways for everyone, especially Latinos, to kick the sugary drink habit is to drink more water.
Water is the subject a new video as part of The Mighty Mouth campaign from the Washington Dental Service Foundation in partnership with the University of California, San Francisco and the University of Washington.
They developed “Share the Love, Share the Water,” a two-minute animated, engaging video for Latino audiences that explains in plain language the benefits of drinking water to keep our bodies – including our mouths – healthier.
What Else Can Latinos Do?
Poor oral health often carries on from childhood to adulthood for many Latinos.
Latino adults suffer from higher rates of tooth decay and have high rates of periodontal disease (when the gums pull away from teeth), and Latino men are the least likely group to seek dental care.
Here are five tips to prevent oral health horrors:
- With many prevention programs aimed at children, as well as increasing enrollment in government plans, health providers should additionally set their sights on programs that expand accessibility of dental care and prevention programs to Hispanic adults.
- Community education and dental health outreach opportunities can help further improve the dental health outcomes for Latinos.
- Educational campaigns and liaisons that explain use of dental benefits and government programs to beneficiaries can yield a huge shift in helping secure dental care for more Latinos of all ages.
- Moreover, competent bilingual oral health resources are imperative for reaching Latinos of a range of ages, origins and generations.
- Community programs are needed to reinforce good at-home dental care routines, as well as access to professional exams and cleanings.
Salud Today has dealt extensively with Latino oral health in past:
- Latinas Can’t Afford to Ignore Dental Care
- Dental ER Visits Have Doubled; Dental Benefits Go Unused
- Poverty and Oral Health
- 4 Important Healthy-Teeth Habits for Back to School
And remember to brush and floss daily, and make regular dental visits!