And with National Oral Health Day having a similar theme this year, they want to ensure the community is familiar with these tips too.
Ms Fatu and Ms Nair inspect the teeth of tamariki in the MidCentral region each day, from both fixed in-school clinics and mobile clinics. They are part of the Child Adolescent Oral Health Service (CAOHS), which provides free dental care for 0-17 year-olds in the MidCentral region.
While the team are predominantly in primary and intermediate schools, they also visit some high schools. Typically dental care for high-school-aged adolescents is provided by independent dentists, but is still free up until their 18th birthday wherever it’s provided.
The CAOHS team not only provide routine check-ups and dental care, but also actively educate tamariki and their caregivers on good oral hygiene practices. Tia Fatu said education was key to ensuring good habits were formed.
“Paying attention to the health of the gum is important, as is showing kids and their parents the correct way to brush their teeth. Passing on diet advice, such as avoiding sugary drinks or foods high in sugar and drinking water over other drinks, is something we’re always promoting,” said Ms Fatu.
Both Ms Fatu and Ms Nair have been working as Oral Health Therapists for seven years, and they enjoy the challenge of working with children. “Each child is different so each day is different for us,” says Henrietta. “We focus on trying to get the kids to feel comfortable so they don’t feel anxious or scared when they’re due for a dental check-up, which will ultimately encourage them to keep up the check-ups as they progress through life.”
They also encourage parents to free phone 0800 talk teeth (0800 825 583) to register their child, update contact details or check enrolments. Under 18-year-olds do not have to be in school to qualify for free dental care.
Oral Health Therapists Tia Fatu (left) and Henrietta Nair at the fixed clinic at Ross Intermediate in Palmerston North.