Why Oral Health Matters for Latino Kids

Did you know Latino kids are 2x as likely to develop cavities than most other children?

At least 1 in 3 Latino kids ages 2-5 has untreated cavities, according to a report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  This is a big deal.

Untreated cavities can make it difficult for kids to focus in school. They can cause low self-esteem, headaches, and in severe cases, lead to mouth infection which may require hospitalization. Poor oral health has also been linked with major health problems like heart disease and diabetes.

Latino Kids May Face More Barriers to Good Oral Health

A number of factors may put Latino kids at risk of dental disease including:

In some cases, parents are unaware of the need to take their child to regular checkups starting at age 1. Other times, it’s the belief that a child’s baby teeth will fall out anyway and don’t need oral care when actually baby teeth are very important. Sometimes, Latino parents may be unsure about the safety of drinking water and believe that soda and juice are safe alternatives to tap water. Added to this is the difficulty parents may have with getting time off work, or simply the lack of funds for dental care.

Despite these challenges, 87% of Latina moms believe that early oral health education is important.

What Can Parents and Communities Do About It?

Making healthy changes at home is often the first step! For instance, brushing teeth at least twice a day and flossing are important for a healthy smile. Drinking more water and fewer sugary drinks prevents cavities and reduces the risk of obesity. Routine dental visits are also critical.

Outside the home, solutions are emerging to create a culture of oral health in Latino communities. That’s why Salud America! is working with partners all across the U.S. to share their stories of success and promote Latino health.

Community health workers, called promotoras de salud in Latino communities, are leading the change. They teach parents and school leaders about the benefits of water and the drawbacks of sugary drinks.

For instance, Gaby Medina, like many who moved from Mexico to the United States, arrived in Denver’s largely Latino Westwood neighborhood with a strong distrust of tap water. However, her dentist suggested giving the safe tap water a try.

Medina did so, and started promoting the water to friends and family. She’s since joined Westwood Unidos and got involved in Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation’s Cavities Get Around campaign. As a “water promotora,  she teaches Spanish-speaking moms to choose water over sugary drinks.

“This [campaign] is a great help, it is a simple solution,” Medina said. “Cavities are 100% preventable!”

Examples like this demonstrate that anyone can be a part of bringing healthy change to their community. Get started today by modeling healthy behaviors for your kids. Join Salud America!’s national network for more information and tools to help create better health!

Rosalie Aguilar is the National Project Coordinator for Salud America!