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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, February 27, 2006

Happy, healthy smiles at HDS Tooth Fairy day

By Loren Moreno
Advertiser Staff Writer

Seven-year-old Aubree Kim of Mililani gets her teeth checked by children's dentist Chris Yamada at Hawaii Dental Service's second annual Tooth Fairy Fun Day at the Hawaii Children's Discovery Center. This year, the event added free dental screenings.

DEBORAH BOOKER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Advice from experts on caring for children's teeth:

Take your child to the dentist on or before his or her first birthday.

Children should see a dentist every six months after the initial visit.

Avoid using negative words when talking about dentist visits.

Wipe your baby's teeth clean after he or she drinks from a bottle of milk, juice or other drink containing sugar.

Children should begin brushing their own teeth by age 3, under adult supervision.

Start flossing a child's teeth daily when all primary teeth are in or when teeth are touching.

Make brushing and flossing fun by using colorful toothbrushes and flavored floss.

Source: Delta Dental

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Seven-year-old Wynne Gallogly stuck her finger in her mouth and wiggled a front tooth for her mom.

"This is my next loose tooth," Wynne told her mom, Erin Gallogly-Staver. Just a couple teeth away from her loose tooth was an empty space from one she just lost.

Wynne was among hundreds of children who visited the Tooth Fairy yesterday at Hawaii Dental Service's Tooth Fairy Fun Day at the Hawaii Children's Discovery Center in Kaka'ako. From good brushing and flossing habits to teeth-friendly food choices, children learned about caring for their pearly whites through games, activities and storytelling by the Tooth Fairy herself.

Gallogly-Staver, of Mililani, said she takes her children to the dentist regularly to help them "develop good habits." And it seems to be working. Her daughter Wynne said she likes going to the dentist because he "helps her teeth grow."

But the dentist isn't all fun, she said. "I don't like when they put that stuff (fluoride) on my teeth. It doesn't taste good," Wynne said, wrinkling her nose.

This is the second year the Hawaii Dental Service has put on the children's day to help celebrate Children's Dental Health Month. New this year were free dental screenings by oral health professionals.

Hawai'i has some of the highest incidence of tooth decay in the nation, according to Hawaii Dental Service data. Hawai'i children ages 5 to 9 have twice the national rate of cavities and children 5 and younger have baby-bottle tooth decay at three times the national rate.

Dr. James Hori, a Waipahu children's dentist, was one of about half a dozen doctors on hand to examine children's teeth. While he didn't see any major problems like bottle tooth decay yesterday, he did see one common problem: cavities.

"Most (of the children) are doing a good job brushing," Hori said. "But the kids need to be flossing between their teeth more," he said. Most kids can look like they have healthy teeth, but in between teeth, where plaque can build, is where cavities are likely to form, he said.

Hori acknowledged that flossing may be hard for kids to do or get excited about. He said parents should step in and floss for the children or at the very least make it easier for them. "Handled flossers older people use can help children," he said.

Dentists were also stressing yesterday the importance of having checkups as early as possible. Hori said parents were recommended in the past to take their children to the dentist around the age of 3. Now, the recommended age is as early as 1.

"The baby teeth are place holders for the adult teeth," Hori said.

Angie Tran of Kane'ohe watched as her two daughters decorated tooth-shaped boxes for collecting their baby teeth. Tran said her older daughter, 6-year-old Tori, has developed good dental care habits.

Tran uses a two-minute hourglass to help her daughter time her brushing. She also tries to make brushing fun. "They get to pick their own toothpaste and toothbrush," Tran said.

Reach Loren Moreno at lmoreno@honoluluadvertiser.com.