School & Community News

Student journalists learn how to have a beautiful, bright smile
July 12, 2012

Editor’s note: Independence Blue Cross Foundation recently invited a dozen Healthy NewsWorks reporters to Philadelphia to a press conference with Kids Smiles. The story below was reported and written by Rebekah Wilford of the East Norriton (Middle School) Bulldog Bulletin.

PHILADELPHIA, July 2012…The Independence Blue Cross Foundation and Kids Smiles share an important belief.

Regular dental care is vital for children, according to both Ms. Lorina Marshall-Blake, the foundation president, and Mrs. Stacey Benner, Kids Smiles education director.

Thanks to donations from the Independence Blue Cross Foundation and other organizations, Kids Smiles cares for kids who don’t have access to dentists, said Mrs. Benner at a recent press conference with Healthy NewsWorks reporters.

Kids Smiles gives dental care to about 30,000 children in the Philadelphia area every year. Mrs. Benner also visits schools and teaches children how to prevent tooth decay so they can have great smiles.

She told reporters that tooth decay is a disease that affects the teeth, but if it is not treated it can spread and cause infection throughout the body. Children with tooth decay can experience pain and have trouble eating, speaking, and smiling. They may also have low self-esteem.

So what causes tooth decay? Mrs. Benner said that when you eat carbohydrates, the sugars mix with the plaque-producing bacteria, streptococcus mutans. There are five hundred types of bacteria in your mouth, but this is the main type that causes cavities. They feed on the sugar and produce an acid which attacks the teeth. This may eventually lead to a cavity. Surprisingly babies are not born with these bacteria in their system. They are passed on to them by, for instance, sharing a spoon.
Mrs. Benner offered these tips:

  • Kids can keep their teeth from decaying and keep them looking clean in a couple of ways. Trying to brush your teeth every day is part of it. You should brush three times a day for two full minutes. Make sure your toothpaste contains fluoride.
  • Kids should also floss once a day. When you pick out floss at the store you can either use floss picks or string floss, whichever one you prefer. All that matters is that you use it.
  • To keep your teeth intact, you should consider the food you eat. Limit the sugary drinks and foods. Mrs. Benner said in a press conference that strawberries have enzymes that can whiten teeth. She then said apples have enzymes that kill the bacteria that cause cavities. For whiter teeth, avoid staining foods and drinks such as tea and fruit juice.
  • Finally, for healthier teeth, kids should visit their family dentist twice a year to make sure their teeth are healthy and to get them cleaned. Also if the dentist tells you to follow up with another appointment to get special work done, then listen to them.

If you visit the dentist and care for your teeth you will have a beautiful, bright smile.

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Since 2003, Healthy NewsWorks has been empowering elementary and middle school students to become researchers, writers, and confident communicators who advance health understanding and literacy through their factual publications and digital media.