More than 7 out of 10 Filipinos have never been to a dentist. A shocking statistic.
Worryingly 98% of children aged three to five have dental caries or cavities and 20% of six-year-olds have never been to a dentist.
Problems are not just limited to the mouth itself. Serious gum infections have been linked to a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Why is the oral health of Filipinos so bad?
Sadly many people do not make the connection between sugar, poor dental hygiene and oral health.
VFV nutrition volunteers Abi and Marijke are aiming to change this for the children at their nutrition project in Palo.
I joined them for the day to see how they are helping children and their mothers learn about how to keep their healthy smiles. Princess from VFV was on standby as translator.
How do you teach basic dental hygiene?
• Make it colorful
Abi and Marijke had prepared a one page hand out for the mothers and children. It was divided into 2 columns with big, bright pictures that the children would recognize.
One column showing what you need to do to have healthy teeth and gums: brush teeth twice a day, rinse with water, eat fruit, drink water. The other showed what you should avoid: sugary snacks, drinking sugary fizzy drinks.
• Keep it simple
Marijke clearly explained that sugar sticks to the teeth and causes decay. She reinforced the importance of brushing twice a day to keep teeth healthy.
Choosing water over sugary drinks was discussed as well as swapping sugar laden snacks for fruit. You get the sweet hit but it’s not as bad for your teeth!
• Back up words with action!
Marijke and Abi have given all of the children at the feeding project their own toothbrush. Each toothbrush is labelled with the child’s name. They are kept at the project so that they will always be there for the children. Some children were not able to brush their teeth properly so Abi has taught them how.
After eating their tasty lunch provided by VFV the children brush their teeth. They will do this every day. The children seemed to enjoy brushing their teeth almost as much as eating their lunch!
The parents told Princess that they were very happy VFV was helping their community and that the nutrition project was not just about providing food but health education too.
Photos and story by Liz Avery – VFV Media Intern