Children in poorer areas with shocking levels of dental decay are being armed with free toothbrushes and toothpaste.
More than 60 low-decile schools were given the supplies as part of a KidsCan and Lumino the Dentists partnership which aims to improve children's dental health.
KidsCan chief executive Julie Chapman said dental decay remained the country's most prevalent chronic and irreversible disease. "Like many other health factors, children living in areas of higher socio-economic deprivation have worse oral health problems."
This year 5250 pupils will benefit from two kits.
Dave Appleyard, principal of Rata Street School in Naenae, said most of his pupils brushed their teeth in some way, but it was inconsistent and they lacked a routine. The children were handed their kits, shown by their teacher how best to use them, and then told to take them home and get brushing.
The best habit children could get into was cleaning their teeth after breakfast and before bed, and that meant forming a routine at home, he said.
As with breakfast, the responsibility rested with parents. "We will deal with the immediate, and if kids come to school hungry we'll have food for them, but we don't want to lose sight of the long-term picture, which is parents providing at home."
The principal of Cannons Creek primary school, Ruth O'Neill, said there was definitely a need for toothbrushes and toothpaste in her Porirua East community. "The public health nurse will do the education around using them with the kids, and then they'll take them home to use," she said.
- The Dominion Post
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