To Brush or Not to Brush


There’s no doubt about it, children are experts at watching, analyzing and learning. In their early childhood years, children have a greater chance at learning good habits that will last a lifetime. Maintaining good oral health is a habit that is more valuable than we may realize; teaching our children the benefits of dental care can help encourage overall health and improve self-confidence from early on.

In my sophomore summer from college, my colleague and I had the opportunity to work with the Kaua‘i Department of Health by creating a children’s dental health coloring and activities book. In doing so, we utilized the department’s mascot character, Mr. Niho (niho is the Hawaiian word for tooth,) to be the foundation of our storyline. As a result of expanding the character in story form and building assisting characters for greater appeal, we felt it was necessary for kids to become involved in their own learning. Therefore, we imagined, created and integrated an activity book that complemented the story.

Nearly six months after introducing our finished product, I was ecstatic to hear that the department liked the work we had done and had successfully published our books, “Mr. Niho’s Underwater Adventures.” It wasn’t until a book signing at Kaua‘i’s annual Children’s Health Day that I realized how much of an impact my “summer project” was amongst young children, parents and teachers.

When children familiarize themselves with characters that are considered “fun” or “nonthreatening,” they have a higher probability of being more receptive, especially toward learning and developing healthy habits.  Mr. Niho’s Underwater Adventures is currently being reviewed by the Hawaii State Department of Health, to be used in schools across the state of Hawai’i.

As a child, I paid little attention to the reality of proper dental care and suffered the consequences of my own poor habits in my later years. Throughout my teenage years, I learned that a healthy smile isn’t only a gateway showcasing great dental health but is a true reflection of a person’s overall health. The same is said in contrast to a healthy smile; dental problems can affect the entire body and can lead to health issues in the long run. By instilling in our little ones the results of proper and improper oral care, and the process in which to prolong habitual practices, we as adults can be certain that our kids will lead a healthy and confident life.